CAPE TOWN, July 2 (Reuters Life!) - An 18-year-old Zimbabwean who runs a football team of African refugees campaigning against xenophobia says wide support for Ghana as the continent’s last World Cup hope could help ease tensions.
Migrants from other African countries who settle in South Africa often face hostility from locals, who accuse them of stealing jobs and services.
Ephraim Ntlamo, who came to South Africa in 2008, set up a football team of refugees from Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Burundi, Rwanda and Mozambique.
The team plays matches in townships where foreigners have been attacked within the last two years, and watches World Cup games with locals to foster more understanding.
“People don’t have a clear idea of how other African countries are but now because of Ghana’s performance in the World Cup they will want to explore what Ghana is about, and what Africa is all about,” Ntlamo said, speaking at a football match at Du Noon township outside Cape Town.
“By this, they will get to understand that we are no different, we are just the same,” he added.
Du Noon township was at the centre of xenophobic attacks in the Western Cape in 2008. There have been constant police patrols and, more recently, the military was deployed.
But street vendors have been selling large numbers of flags and scarves as South Africans rush to support Ghana as the one remaining African team of the six to originally qualify.
Reflecting a mood across the continent, South African newspapers had headlines backing Ghana’s attempt to beat the previous best performance by an African team.
“Africa Unite, Black Stars carry continent’s dream”, said the Sowetan.
The Ghana Football Association said it had received a message of support from Nelson Mandela, Africa’s most revered statesman. “We join everybody else on the continent and in the diaspora in wishing you success,” Mandela said.
The Black Stars will attempt to become the first Africans to reach a World Cup semi-final when they face Uruguay on Friday.
“After Ghana won, everybody is happy. Even African, South African is happy because Ghana qualified for the last 16,” said Andile Tsbongolo, a Du Noon resident watching the match.
Writing by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Steve Addison