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banner Sunday, 30 January, 2000, 16:29 GMT
Home from home in Kumasi

South Africa's fans have their sights set on the title

By Mohammed Allie in Kumasi.

In many ways Kumasi, Ghana's second biggest city after the capital Accra, reminds the visitor of Durban on the east coast of South Africa - especially the lush green tropical vegetation, not to mention the heat and humidity.

Kumasi is the base for Group B which comprises Algeria, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa at the 22nd African Cup of Nations Finals.

The South Africans seem to have settled in well in an hospitable city. As soon as you mention you're from South Africa the immediate response is: "Bafana Bafana!"

The South Africans have proved popular with the locals - particuarly out-going defender Mark Fish.

Mark Fish: All mod cons at his disposal
Even the training sessions have been well attended - many teams in South Africa's Premier Soccer League would be happy to have the few thousand who have turned up to watch Bafana Bafana go through their paces at the Kumasi Sports Stadium.

The training facilities may not be the best, with bumpy pitches at the Kumasi University and Ghana Breweries and no changing rooms, but coach Trott Moloto is still satisifed with the facilities.

"We have to realise that we're in Africa so the facilities won't be the best we've ever used," he said.

"But the people in Ghana have done all they could to make us comfortable. The people here have been really friendly and have made us feel at home. They know us very well and have adopted us as their babies."

In contrast to the last African Cup of Nations in Burkina Faso where the players complained of boredom, a host of activities have been arranged in the hotel where the team are staying.

"Here it's been nice. We've tried everything in our powers to see to it that the players are comfortable in everything that they do - from their rooms where there are TVs as well as games like table tennis. They feel really at home here in Kumasi," said Moloto.

Andre Arendse: Impressed by the local support
The team are staying at the well-appointed Flossid Hotel, where security is tight to keep out the many young fans who stand around the perimeter throughout the day hoping to catch a glimpse of the players.

In fact, security for all the Kumasi-based sides has been very tight with each of the four teams' hotel gates manned by armed guards.

Mark Fish is happy with the way things have turned out in Kumasi: "Compared to other places in Africa we've visited, this is paradise.

"We have televisions in our rooms and have been able to watch lots of sports such as cricket and English football. Many of the players have also brought along their DVD players so there's been lots to keep us entertained," said Fish, sitting with his video camera in his hand.

Goalkeeper Andre Arendse has also been impressed with the atmosphere in Kumasi. "The locals here have been fantastic - they've really made us feel at home. The people are unbelievably friendly.

"We've also had lots of entertainment to keep us busy. There's also been lots of competition at the table tennis arena and that's been great because it brings out the competitive spirit in the players."

Arendse believes the team spirit in the Bafana Bafana class of 2000 comes close to that of the successful team of 1996.

Kumasi has proved the perfect base for the Bafana Bafana
"The spirit in the 1996 team was unbelievable but I must say we've got a very good mood in this camp too," he said. "It could be even better because we are away from home and we know we have to pull together to be successful."

Normally one of the busiest people at a tournament like the African Cup of Nations, where the action is so intensive, is the team doctor.

And Dr Victor Ramathesele has taken no chances, bringing physio tables, ultra sound machines, two steel trunks of medication and other medical equipment out to Kumasi.

Even when it comes to eating, the South Africans have been thoroughly professional in their preparation.

All their meals are being prepared by their very own chef, Jeff Schudermans who hails from mid-Rand in South Africa.

"The only ingredients we get locally are fresh produce like vegetables," he revealed. "Otherwise everything else had been brought out from South Africa.

"I've been cooking lots of pap (maize meal) and beef and even the locals in the kitchen here have learnt to cook pap."

The locals have certainly embraced the tournament warmly by turning up in big numbers at the games as well as at the training sessions.

Now it's up to the teams to reciprocate by delivering entertaining and exciting football.

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See also:
27 Jan 00 |  Cup News
South Africa through to quarter-finals
13 Jan 00 |  Cup Teams
Team profile: South Africa
30 Jan 00 |  Cup News
Nigeria and Egypt fined
28 Jan 00 |  Cup News
Tunisia and Morocco share points
29 Jan 00 |  Cup News
Warriors defeat 10-man Gabon
Links to other Cup News stories are at the foot of the page.