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A Continent United

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I think it would be almost blasphemous to write an article currently about anything without reference to the soccer world cup that’s taking place all over our beautiful country right now (some people are offended at referring to the beautiful game as soccer instead of football because they feel it’s another example of the influence of American culture in our society but with the final being played at a stadium called ‘Soccer City’ that’s what I’ll use). I’ve decided to go with the soccer theme and try and milk it while I still have the opportunity to (If Unathi can request that you sms ‘Diski’ to some 5 digit number on our TV screens every 15 seconds I kindly request that I also be allowed the opportunity, without you having to pay me R7.50 of course).

This tournament has had a profound effect on race relations in this country due to everyone rallying behind our soccer team in a yellow and green, diski dancing (how ridiculous are those moves) and all the paraphernalia available (my head was too big for a makarapa) wearing movement. Even before the world cup started it was beautiful to see everyone in Bafana jerseys at the team bus parade around Sandton in a unified stance against work and being in the office (thank you Bafana). The tournament kicked off on the 11th of June and as I will tell my children (the planned ones that I know about) and their children who will hopefully pass the story on, I was there (I know there are cameras to document moments in time but word of mouth is so much better because of the broken telephone effect, 3 generations down the line I will not only have been at the opening game of the 2010 world cup on home-soil but my name will have changed to Siphiwe Tshabalala as well and I would’ve been the scorer of that great goal).

I didn’t make it to the stadium in time to see the opening ceremony (I hear it was the usual big 5 theme that we see at all opening ceremonies in Africa where all the participants are forced to dance in jubilation while wearing animal suits while perpetuating the western myth, that all Africa is good for are the game drives) but we arrived before kick-off. The atmosphere was electric (Eskom have behaved) and I was so proud to see all of my fellow brethren all kitted out in the same uniform (except the Mexicans of course who were all in their own traditional straw makarapa’s) as if we were going to war with our weapons of choice in hand, our vuvuzelas (I know numerous countries have complained about them and would have enjoyed using them as actual weapons to bash our heads).

The game ended in a draw and we all know that our team didn’t make it past the first round (thank you Teko) and that every other African country that qualified (other than Ghana) didn’t make it through either. What has been fascinating to see is how everyone has embraced Ghana as their team of choice now and are firmly behind the Black Stars (an American friend didn’t appreciate me mentioning that one black star beat 50 white stars -once he caught on that the reference is to their respective flags).

In a country that was mired by xenophobic attacks in our recent past it’s amazing how our country as well as the rest of the continent have thrown our support behind this one lone African hope (I know it isn’t everyone I saw a news insert where some people were saying that the further the team progresses in the tournament the more stories there’ll be of people selling their homes in Accra in order to purchase tickets for their matches with no plans to go back home). I hope our support doesn’t put too much pressure on them and they go on well into the tournament and hopefully win it (I’m allowed to dream).

What excites me is the infrastructure development that has come with the tournament especially around public transport with our Gautrain and Rea Vaya buses (I don’t care for the new Radisson hotels being built all over the place literally 100 metres apart in some cases because I know even after the tournament I wouldn’t be able to afford staying there) now giving us more travel options etc even though as in all government spend in this country there have been controversies and outcries (usually loudest from groups that bid for tenders and don’t get them, all I’ll say to them is: faka imali uzobona).

One major question that has been posed is: what are we going to do with all these stadiums (I know the plural is stadia but I grew up where everyone said stadiums) after the world cup? I know our domestic league doesn’t have the slightest chance of filling these stadiums for local games unless it’s a Chiefs v Pirates game but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I know the tourists that have been here have had a great time (especially the Mexicans after discovering that we wear makarapa’s too) and will spread the word about this beautiful land thus benefitting tourism and hopefully foreign direct investment after seeing that business does also happen here.

The reality of the situation is that we couldn’t invite the world to just come and see our new trains and buses without throwing a little sport into the mix and an incentive for our politicians to support the large investment required (new hotels to meet their concubines in). If our stadiums turn into white elephants we could always demolish them and build a 500 square metre game park (tourists will come) or high rise apartments to accommodate the homeless (I doubt tourists would pay to see this but it would be the right thing to do).

In summary I’m just glad that we’ve shown the world that we can host a world class event even better than they can (we’re not just about the game parks) and that we have an awesome country and continent (in various ways). I’m also eternally grateful that I didn’t take the time to learn the diski dance (I hope people don’t start doing it in clubs just because they took the time to) but to be honest I have just one regret.. buying the real Bafana Bafana jersey especially after discovering who the beneficiaries are (when am I going to wear it again).

PS. I’m writing this before their quarterfinal clash so if Ghana did go on to lose and we subsequently see or flare up of xenophobic attacks don’t forget that there once was a semblance of unity and I’m not a raving lunatic.

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