It’s world cup time

Posted on Jun 22, 2010

I am sitting in a cafe in Durban, South Africa after watching the home team beat France on the huge fanfest screen that the town has put up on the beach. An unforgettable experience! Surrounded by South Africans – mostly black, some white – my ears are buzzing from the relentless blast of vuvuzelas. I love them – the people’s instrument, even I can play it, and so easy to join an orchestra! We all wanted Bafana Bafana to win – because we wanted Africa to win. They did, but they went out of the competition. It hasn’t stopped the celebrations, the feeling of unity and fun, but we all hope another African team will go further. World Cups need the home team to progress to at least the quarter finals. Without Bafana Bafana, any African team is now the home team.

That’s something important. Almost everyone I have met, black and white, tells me how the World Cup is not a good use of money. The government spent £1 billion building five new stadiums and a further £500 million refurbishing five others. Everyone says the money could have been better spent on meeting ‘ordinary’ people’s many needs – health, education, transport. It’s true that most people here won’t get any benefit from the World Cup, at least in the short term. At the same time, much of the country is wrapped up in the event, humming to the excitement of nation against nation, the intrigue of why good players play badly, why small countries do well. The new stadiums are stunning sporting arenas – gladiatorial coliseums and architectural triumphs that show the world what can be done. And even the poor – perhaps especially the poor – love football, even when it’s played by men earning more in a week than they could dream of earning in a lifetime. Rising out of these contradictions is a spirit of unity. The identity of Africa as a continent is thriving and being enjoyed. It’s fun, celebratory, loud, positive and alive. Think I’ll steal some of it- I am off to join the vuvuzela crowd still hooting on the beach in celebration of the fallen heroes of Bafana Bafana.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *