Mexico and South Africa soccer fans enjoy opening game of 2010 World Cup

The 32-team tournament showcases intense soccer action and attracts the most passionate fans in the world.
By Jorge Castillo and Aaron Leitko
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 12, 2010

Whether analyzing the action in rapid-fire Spanish or tooting excitedly on a plastic vuvuzela horn, Washington area rooters viewing Friday's World Cup match between Mexico and South Africa spoke volumes about the intensity of fútbol fandom.

At the Maldonado house in Alexandria, the decor made a statement but loudly and proudly. A Mexican soccer jersey hung on the wall. A Mexican ball cap sat next to the TV. A Mexican scarf from the 2002 World Cup hung across the mantel.

And there, 15 fans in green Mexican jerseys issued predictions Friday morning over the blare of the Univision telecast, as they eagerly awaited the opening match of the 2010 World Cup.

Like thousands of others in the region, the Maldonados left Mexico -- they came from Guadalajara about 15 years ago -- but did not leave behind their love of Mexican fútbol.

"This is huge," said Pepe Maldonado, who played soccer at Virginia Commonwealth University and professionally in Mexico's top league. "It's a holiday -- it's a national holiday."

Pepe's younger brother, Esteban, roots for both the Mexican and U.S. soccer teams -- unless they are playing each other. "I root for Mexico because I grew up watching Mexico with my parents, so I'm more towards Mexico," said Esteban Maldonado, who was a 2004 All-Met Soccer Player of the Year and played for James Madison University.

Some friends not of Mexican descent also showed up to support Mexico. "Just being a part of the same region [of the world], you want them to do well," said Costa Rica native Kyle Morsink, whose brother Kurt plays for D.C. United.

Three minutes into the match, Mexican striker Giovani dos Santos appeared to have scored a goal. The Maldonados erupted with excitement, then erupted again -- with disappointment -- when they saw that the South African goalkeeper had blocked the shot.

In Northwest Washington, along Embassy Row, South African soccer fans made their own distinct noise as they watched the first Cup match to be hosted by an African nation.

Like many of the more than 90,000 people at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium, the fans at the Embassy of South Africa's Cup kickoff party made loud buzzing sounds with their vuvuzela horns.

To add to the percussive thrum of heated fandom, BamBams -- inflatable rods that produce a sharp click when slammed together -- were handed out at the embassy door.

Even the attire was a mite noisy. South African fans wore bright yellow-and-green jerseys, and a few were capped with makarapas -- tricked-out construction helmets sporting the team logo.

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