Few of those who are shouting world cup slogans such as “Ke nako,“ “Feel it, it is here, “ and “Pashasha moment,” seem to care what “it” is or what it is time for. Many are living for the moment and have a surface understanding that it is all about this month of the global soccer show case. Let us however try and get more from the world cup experience than just the fun and excitement that will not live beyond the closing ceremony when the celebrations have ended and the visitors have left.
The world cup has come to South Africa at a time when the nation is bleeding from festering wounds of intense division in terms of racism, class struggles, political squabbles, xenophobia, ethnic friction and a host of other unsavoury divisions. It arrives at a time when there are some government officials backing the singing of racist songs encouraging black people to shoot Boers. It comes also at a time when we have seen some Boers taking up arms in readiness to declare an independent Afrikaner state.
This world cup experience should not be light glue such as was the Rugby world cup of 1995 and the African Cup of Nations of 1996 which were both hosted and won by South Africa. What do I mean by light glue? Those two events brought bonds, joy, national unity and harmony that were unfortunately short lived. Those of us witnessing the events back then from our TV screens outside of South Africa marvelled at how the nation rallied behind the Springboks and Bafana Bafana and propelled them to victory. It was a delight to see the rainbow nation unfold, people of all walks of life, shapes, colours and political affiliation, uniting and embracing each other. Apartheid and all its poison was finally dead and buried, so it seemed. Down the line, when the curtain fell and the euphoria of victory wore off, people realised that they were back at the proverbial ranch. It was time to go back to the “normal,” days of hatred and intolerance. Even Mandela‘s “Madiba effect,” could not prevent this back track to the status quo.
The first lesson that must not be forgotten from the 2010 experience is that with a concerted, extra effort to work hard, the nation can achieve great things in a short time. One only needs to look at the road developments, the marvellous stadia that South Africa now boasts of, the face lifted buildings and the newly formed business enterprises and it soon dawns on you that all this would not have happened without that spark in the form of the 2010 soccer extravaganza.
Another equally important lesson is that of hospitality. The country is presently swarming with visitors from all walks of life and various continents. They are experiencing a warm Mzansi welcome. Hopefully this hospitality is not just driven by economic motives and is a genuine desire to meet, interact and appreciate visitors from across the borders and seas. A friend of mine noted recently that the South African media loves to talk about the many “foreigners," who are here for the world cup. That word is used more than the term “ visitors,” or “guests,” and has subtle connotations of an unwelcoming society. Hopefully those that advocate for xenophobia will realise through '2010, the fact that the world is now a global village and they need to rid themselves of the closed box that they have trapped themselves in.
It was delightful to see the Blue Bulls rugby team and their fans adapt wonderfully to their new, albeit temporary home in Orlando, Soweto. Had the world cup not necessitated the move, the camaraderie that has recently developed between the predominantly white Bulls fans and their black hosts of Soweto is something that should be witnessed more often. Decades from now, it can only be hoped and encouraged that there will be more black fans from the townships mingling with their white counterparts, at soccer and rugby stadia, embracing each other’s passion for sport and the only colour of importance being their team colours.
I am sure there are many more life lessons that can be learned but it all has to do with the angle at which the populace wants to view this world cup experience. This is undoubtedly the biggest world event that has been hosted in this part of the world. Let it not be hosted in vain. Let us feel it and make sure that it is here to stay!