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SA: Ghana 'pride of Africa'

2010-06-27 12:54
Johannesburg - South Africa rejoiced on Sunday as Ghana became only the third African team ever to make the World Cup quarter-finals, as police boosted security for England's clash with arch-rivals Germany.

Even South Africa's organisers shed their neutrality to welcome the victory of the "Black Stars" as the only nation still carrying a flag from the continent in the first tournament held on its soil.

"We welcome them into the quarter-finals," said Rich Mkhondo, spokesman for the local organising committee.

"Even though we are organising this event for various nations, we are glad an African team is still flying the African flag," he told reporters.

"We wish them luck in their game against Uruguay," he said.

The sentiment was reflected in local media and even government, with the Sunday Times proclaiming "Black Stars flying high" over a picture of defender John Pantsil racing with Ghana's national flag after their 2-1 win.

"Ghana shatter American dream," said The Sunday Independent.

"Even with the burden of carrying an entire continent, Ghana could not fail here last night," the paper said. "Throughout Africa, from Phokeng to Accra, celebrations reverberated from the final whistle and long into the evening."

Just moments after the game, South Africa's ruling African National Congress -- which began as the continent's first liberation movement -- hailed the victory, clearly relieved to see an African team progress after the hosts crashed out in the group stages.

"The ANC would like to thank the Ghana National Soccer Team (the Black Stars) for salvaging the image of the continent in this tournament," the party said in a statement.

"We are very confident that having gone this far ... we are very proud of you, as South Africa and as part of the continent of Africa, you are our pride."

Despite Bafana Bafana's loss, South Africa is still revelling in its hosting of the World Cup, which has so far overcome worries about crime and poor public transport to stage an event without major incident.

With the tournament now focused on high-stakes matches like England's clash with Germany on Sunday, host cities are gearing up for big influxes of fans.

The two European giants play in the normally sleepy city of Bloemfontein, where the airport is expecting 15 charter flights to land -- making it one of the busiest days in its history.

The long rivalry between English and German supporters has in the past triggered some brutal episodes of hooligan violence.

When the teams played each other in the European championships a decade ago, riot police had to fire water cannon to bring order on the streets of the Belgian town of Charleroi.

But provincial police spokesman Sam Makhele said the night before the match was quiet, with no reports of trouble.

"We have increased our forces on the ground, around the stadium, around the mall and the entertainment area," he said.

"We are not anticipating any problems but if there are some, we will be ready."

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt, head of English police delegation, said he believed there would be no repeat of Charleroi.

"I am confident that we are not going to see the kind of really poor behaviour, the scale of it, that we saw in Charleroi all those years ago," he told AFP.
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