It’s been a phenomenal experience hosting the Soccer World Cup here in South Africa. Congratulations to Spain and well played, everyone! Sport often tends towards a win-lose outcome, but this event has been win-win all the way. It didn’t matter that our team exited early, holding their heads high after three thrilling matches. The tournament focus was far more encompassing: nation-building at its best, as we welcomed the world, while showcasing Africa.
Dave and I were fortunate to attend the quarter-final game between Ghana and Uruguay, held in Johannesburg. Well, it felt as if the whole country got behind the continent! The immense support showered on Bafana Bafana effortlessly shifted to back the Black Stars, Africa’s only remaining hope for a first ever semi-final spot in a Soccer World Cup tournament.
Tipped off by a friend, we took the Metrorail to Soccer City , near Soweto. What a ride! The carriage rocked in a vocal and vuvuzela riot, of the most soulful kind. True to our roots, we sported SA fan gear together with Ghana’s red, yellow and green. This trio was sitting beside us, demonstrating how it’s done:
One of the passengers had crayons at the ready. Her hand must have ached by the end of the trip, streaking flag after flag across everyone’s cheeks. Here she is, working her magic:
Being a mix of an emerging and first world economy, organization in South Africa sometimes disappoints. Not this time. The entire process ran like clockwork, no mean feat considering the 84 017 spectators! Built to resemble an African calabash (bowl), Soccer City towers above you, lighting the sky. This is it, as well as the scene inside:
Not even Uruguay’s victory, after a tense game that tore into extra time, could spoil the sensational vibe among us African supporters. Spontaneous singing soared on the train home, culminating at around 1am in Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrika (God Bless Africa). Here’s a little history about this song: South Africa’s National Anthem and a short video clip that summarizes our whole, unforgettable adventure:
Hosting this 2010 Soccer World Cup resounds with the spirit of South Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup win, immortalized in the movie Invictus. We’ve experienced the same overwhelming sense of inspiration and unity, but on a broader scale.
And speaking of scale: here’s a huge, international initiative that you can sign your name to: 1 GOAL: Education for All. You’ll be in esteemed company, including Ronaldo and co, as this campaign unites “footballers and fans, charities and organisations around the world” calling on global leaders “to make education a reality for 72 million children by 2015”. When I signed up, the tally of supporters totalled over 12,350,000!
It’s a worthy cause, similar to the one behind this site. If you’ve read the introduction, you’ll know that our advertising revenue sponsors the education of two young African girls. So if you like what you see, please visit again and spread the word for them.
As a final thought about the Soccer World Cup and what it means to this country, here’s a link to a recent Carte Blanche article considering the next step: Global forum. In summary, the message is one of hope that tourists will return, with trade and investment. Succinctly stated: “South Africa is a country that’s open for business”.