Heavy rain failed to dampen the spirits at Johannesburg’s National Stadium on Saturday as the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) kicked off in colourful, rhythmical African style.
The crowd inside calabash-shaped stadium sang, danced, and blew vuvuzelas in appreciation as the country’s top artists dazzled in an opening ceremony that paid tribute to former president Nelson Mandela and the continent’s fighting spirit.
With the rain threatening to slow down the musical spectacle, the crowd still revelled to the sounds of Ringo Madlingozi, Sibongile Khumalo, the soulful Judith Sephuma, Afro-pop sensation Siphokazi and former Idols contestant Ayanda Nhlangothi, among others.
Lira steals the show
But it was South African singing sensation Lira who stole the show with her dance moves and wooed the crowd with the song “Higher”, made popular by the late Afro-pop queen Brenda Fassie.
A sea of colour brightened up the stadium, symbolising the diverse nations that gathered at the stadium and showing that Africa truly is a continent populated by diverse and colourful people.
The South African squad that won the tournament in 1996 also made an appearance, much to the delight of fans.
Earlier in the day, South African President Jacob Zuma held a welcome luncheon in Sandton, Johannesburg for the heads of state attending the tournament.
He said he trusted that they would be treated to the best soccer spectacle humanly possible.
“We believe that the tournament will contribute immensely in promoting unity and friendship in the continent. The Africans are coming together from all over our beautiful continent to celebrate their Africanness and that is a wonderful occasion for us all,” Zuma said.
Zuma said he believed the Afcon tournament would serve as a prelude to the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil. “Africa is yet to win the World Cup, or to exit at a very respectable stage in this tournament, and this should be a springboard towards that goal.”
The opening ceremony was followed by the opening match of the tournament, between South Africa’s Bafana Bafana and Cape Verde, followed by a clash between the other two teams in Group A, Angola and Morocco.
Both matches ended in goalless draws.