South Africans learn tongue twister anthem for football World Cup | world | Hindustan Times
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South Africans learn tongue twister anthem for football World Cup

Before every South African football match, fans and players put their hands on their chest and with serious faces belt out the national anthem. But mid-song some keep quiet or fumble the words.

world Updated: Jun 04, 2010 11:28 IST

Before every South African football match, fans and players put their hands on their chest and with serious faces belt out the national anthem. But mid-song some keep quiet or fumble the words.

The South African national anthem includes verses in five of the country's 11 official languages, a tongue twister which has prompted the culture ministry to devise ways of encouraging everyone to sing the whole song.

Lerato Matshikiza, 25, from Johannesburg said that she only sings the Xhosa, Zulu and English parts of the anthem, humming through the Sotho and Afrikaans lines.

But she decided to learn all the lyrics after she attended a church function with American priests in December.

"It was so embarrassing. When we sang the national anthem, everyone sang on a high note at the beginning, but when it came to the Afrikaans bit no one knew the lyrics. So we kinda made up the words and the song picked up again on the English part."

Themba Mabaso, of the national culture department, said come the June 11 opening World Cup game between Bafana Bafana and Mexico, South Africans will sing all the lyrics.

"In our research, we found people didn't sing the lyrics because they were in a language they did not understand. So we designed literature that would unpack the content and meaning of the song in all languages," he said.

The booklets simplify the spelling of the words to make them easier to pronounce, he said.

The department also teamed with community organisations around the country to hold rehearsal sessions to teach the song, which is available as a CD or MP3 file, or even a cell phone ringtone, so people can practise at home.

Although many South Africans can't sing the national anthem, reggae singer Ras Dumisani drew national outrage with his off-key rendition before a rugby match in France last year.

South Africans were also up in arms when the anthem was cut to two verses at the opening match of last year's FIFA Confederations Cup. No explanation was ever given for the cut.