Crowds of people dressed in t-shirts, wigs and dresses in the yellow and green of Bafana Bafana and waving the national flag made their presence felt with a deafening chorus of horns and cheering.
Office workers came out of their buildings and donned football shirts along with makarapas – hard hats carved and painted into the shape of footballers and flags, and schoolchildren – who were dismissed at midday for a special month-long World Cup holiday – entertained the masses with frenzied dancing.
“I think that if possible there are more people on the streets today than when we won the Rugby World Cup in 1995,” Thandi, 21, an insurance worker yelled.
Supporters stood on hotel balconies, climbed on each others’ shoulders and clambered up lampposts and trees to catch a glimpse of the team as they paraded through the streets in an open top bus as part of the “United We Stand” event. South Africa will take on Mexico in the first match of the World Cup on Friday.
Security guards protecting the President Jacob Zuma – who appeared wearing a Bafana Bafana shirt with Zuma 1 on the back – were almost swept aside in the chaotic scenes.
Among the crowds was a far smaller but no less vocal contingent of British fans who have started arriving in the country ahead of Saturday’s England game against the USA.
They paraded under a banner reading “I Diski Iza Ekhaya” – “Football’s Coming Home”.
Some British fans arriving this morning and found their coach from the airport brought to a standstill by a sea of people as they arrived at their hotel in the business district of Sandton.
Felicity Goddard, 30, an engineer from Plymouth who has come out to watch all the matches with a group of 20, said she had never seen anything like it.
“It’s a hell of a welcome – they must have thought we were one of the teams because they were jumping all over the coach,” she said. “The atmosphere is just incredible – if we were excited about the month ahead before, we’re ten times more so now.”
Tony Dowsett, 49, from Chelmsford, watched the scenes in astonishment having managed to get out of the coach.
“It’s just the most unbelievable experience,” he said. “We obviously hoped that this would be a fantastic experience but we never dreamed it would be like this.
“The whole country obviously just loves football – it’s a great first impression. If this is what it’s like before the games have even begun, I feel sorry for Mexico. Telegraph.co.uk