Stuart Dye at the World Cup

Stuart Dye blogs from the Fifa World Cup

Ecstatic fans drown the vuvuzelas

By Stuart Dye

All Whites fans stayed in the stadium cheering, waving and singing after the final whistle, unable to tear themselves away. Photo / Brett Phibbs
All Whites fans stayed in the stadium cheering, waving and singing after the final whistle, unable to tear themselves away. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Fans walk around bleary-eyed. Some are smiling, others just look dazed. It's the morning after the night before.

Hundreds of Kiwis came to Nelspruit to watch the All Whites draw 1-1 with world champions Italy.

It was an eight-hour round-trip from Johannesburg, where many of the fans are staying, but it was a trip no one would have missed.

"It was an unbelievable experience," said Jamie Crump, from Wellington. "Something I never dreamed would happen in my life. New Zealand competing with the world's best on the world stage and holding their own."

The fans in the stadium achieved the rare feat of temporarily drowning out the vuvuzelas.

With about 15 minutes to go, they took off their All Whites shirts and began waving them above their heads.

"That was a spontaneous moment," Mr Crump said. "And right then it was magic and it was like we believed we could do it."

Prime Minister John Key was in the crowd and joined the celebrations on the pitch. Former All Black Carlos Spencer was also present.

The fans could not be moved after the final whistle and stayed cheering, waving and singing until stadium officials had to urge them out so they could clean up.

It was support described by one South African newspaper as "delirious".

The result is a staggering achievement for a nation at only its second World Cup. Italy has won the tournament four times.

South African newspapers had the story on their front pages, which the New Zealand fans read over breakfast.

"Kiwi blushes for lucky Italy", read the Business Day. "Underdogs could have beaten world champions but for dubious penalty," it added.

Paul Jones, from Auckland, said 12 hours after the whistle the result still hadn't sunk in.

"I'm dazed, to be honest. We keep talking about it and reliving it but it's surreal. We came to this tournament and realistically we didn't have much chance, but now we sit here talking about maybe making it through to the second round."

To do that New Zealand would need to beat Paraguay, another huge step for a team that has already played beyond itself. But for a few hours at least, the point against Italy is enough to be thinking about.

Ray Clapham, father of All White Aaron, said he was struggling to find words to describe his feelings - and because he had lost his voice.

"I've never screamed so much in all my life. It's the stuff dreams and memories are made of forever."

The White Noise, one of the larger groups of New Zealand fans, almost didn't make it to the game.

Officious volunteers would not let their bus near the stadium, leaving 70 fans with a mad dash to reach their seats with just minutes to spare.

- NZ Herald

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