JOHANNESBURG: Anticipation ahead of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) has reached fever pitch.
There are just 10 days to go before the biggest African soccer spectacle kicks off on 19 January. The opening match will be played between Bafana Bafana and Cape Verde at FNB Stadium (which will be known as National Stadium for the duration of Afcon) in Johannesburg.
Hundreds of people, clad in Bafana Bafana jerseys and holding flags and vuvuzelas, gathered outside Nelson Mandela Library in Johannesburg on Wednesday to begin the countdown to the event, and catch a glimpse of the national soccer team.
Musicians Dr Malinga and Oskido kept the crowds cheering as Takuma, the official Afcon mascot, danced along with the team players and the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula.
The message was clear from the minister - all South Africans must support Bafana Bafana and welcome visitors from other countries. "On behalf of government I want to thank you for your support. I encourage you to welcome our visitors as [the participating] nations come to the country."
He said South Africans should show the visitors and fans what Ubuntu is all about.
"To the coach and all your staff, our message to you is, 'go and do us proud... go on to the field and fight'".
Mbalula said while he was happy about Bafana's performance last night against Norway, they needed to ensure that during the Afcon tournament, they scored goals.
Last night Bafana Bafana lost 1-0 to Norway in a warm-up match.
Afcon Local Organising Committee CEO Mvuzo Mbebe said all category one tickets had been sold out, but there were category two and category three tickets still available.
Tickets - which range in price from R50 to R200 -- can only be acquired from approved service providers. EQ Tickets has been appointed as the exclusive provider of tickets to Afcon 2013, in conjunction with Spar stores.
Bafana player Bongani Khumalo said the team was 100 percent ready to represent the country at Afcon. He thanked all South Africans for their support.
The crowd cheered as player Siphiwe Tshabalala introduced himself and encouraged supporters to keep believing in the team. "We value your support," he said.
The team's coach, Gordon Igesund, said: "I have no doubt that all the players will make you proud. We will do our best to win Afcon."
Bafana will face Algeria in Soweto on Saturday in their final warm-up match.