Ghana, Niger already winners

Zandile Mbabela

AN easy-going group is how two of the four Orange Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) teams staying in Nelson Mandela Bay have been described by staff at their respective hotels.

While the Ghanaian team flew in two chefs to prepare their favourite food from home, the players from Niger are enjoying some South African cuisine including the popular dish bobotie.

Exotic music and dishes – some of which hotel staff cannot even pronounce – have become the order of the day as they try to make the teams’ stay as comfortable as possible.

The Ghanaian team, staying at the Garden Court Hotel with its 50-strong entourage, was described as an “absolute delight” by general manager Erica Rautenbach.

“I think we’ve been converted. After Bafana, they are our favourite team and we hope they make it through to the finals,” she said.

Rautenbach said the team had no fancy preferences, save their cultural food where fish and chicken feature repeatedly on the menu. “They brought in their own chefs to prepare their meals and all we really do is help get them what they need to make the food.

“They really are the nicest bunch of people – an absolute delight.”

Since the start of the tournament at the weekend, the hotel’s foyer has been transformed into a Ghanaian dance fest, with a band coming at 10am to play some traditional sounds. “These are mostly supporters for Ghana and it is just absolutely beautiful,” she said.

While the Niger team also brought along their own chef, she is doing more overseeing than cooking as the team is more than happy with South African flavours.

Werner Peterseil, the managing director of the Paxton Hotel where the team is staying, said while the team needed to stick to some strict dietary rules, they were quite open-minded.

“There are people around to ensure they don’t eat certain things, but the team does enjoy the stuff we have on our menu – from seafood dishes to bobotie,” he said.

“Their main diet is rice and noodles and they can’t drink anything with sugar in so they have Pepsi Light and enormous amounts of water.”

Peterseil said the team took their job very seriously and attended regular gym sessions at the neighbouring Virgin Active Club and at the training camps. “They entertain themselves around here with PlayStation and foosball, and the pool is quite a popular spot as well.”

The team is occupying 30 rooms at the Paxton until January 29, after which one of the teams taking part in the semi-finals will take over. The other teams staying in the Bay are the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali, at the Brookes Hill Suites and Protea Marine hotels respectively.

Neither hotel would comment on the teams’ stays yesterday.

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