[Note: I sent this piece to a certain on-line mag a week before the start of WC2010 and it was rejected. Since I love y’all, I decided to post it here]
“We will protest at the stadiums, so the tourists can see how bad we have it here” – Hilton Cannel, member of Eldorado Park’s (South of Johannesburg) resident’s housing committee.
Whether we like to admit it or not, South Africans have always been somewhat of master craftsmen when it comes to the art of manufacturing national feelings. Back when the country was still in its infancy and the rest of the world was sitting back with their popcorn waiting for the savage blacks to go ape-shit (pun always intended) with their machetes, chopping every white limb in sight, Archbishop Desmond Tutu made a sterling, Nobel-peace prize winning performance absolving Apartheid perpetrators of their past sins with the truth and reconciliation commission. A feeling of forgiveness was manufactured, we were now a “Rainbow nation”, a place were black and white hands joined to lead each other to the much sort after post-racial future. Googling “Race in South Africa” will inform anyone that that didn’t happened as planned. Fast forward to now, the country is planning to host the world’s biggest sporting event for the first time in Africa, albeit in a country that likes to delude itself into thinking that it is more European than African.
FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup means a lot of things to a lot of people. To your average larger-chugging soccer fanatic, it probably means non-stop, month long, first class football and a reason to consume above average amounts of beer. People who hate soccer, like my mum, would probably liken the experience to being decapitated with a blunt knife, everywhere you turn, you’re reminded that for 30 days, you have to grin and bear all the football madness. The average middle class folks who went from shouting at the top of their lungs about how we don’t have the capacity to host such an event (even though history proves otherwise, we successfully hosted the Rugby and Cricket world cups without any notable glitches), to now boycotting the event because “only FIFA is going to benefit from it” would probably use this event as a reason to bitch and moan. South Africa, like every other nation, is not a monolith. Trying to describe the mood around would be a little complicated.
There’s no denying it, almost everybody’s got the fever. Every other car on the road is adorned with South African flag, side mirror socks. A flag of some kind is being flown from every house. Ad execs have traded in their creativity for cheesy soccer themed ad campaigns. The sound of the Vuvuzelas has firmly entrenched itself in the City’s sound-scape. On “Football Friday”, like clones from a scene in a bad horror flick, the masses are proudly wearing their counterfeit Bafana Bafana T-shirts but underneath all the acts of manufactured patriotism, it’s business as usual in a the world’s most unequal society where manifestations of anger and frustration over shattered dreams of the liberation struggle are occuring at a frequent rate. Taxi drivers protesting over the government’s theft of their “turf”, Bus drivers striking over wages, freight and rail workers down tools for three weeks, leaving imports piling up and several million train commuters to use substantially more expensive alternative transport. A few days ago, resident of Makhaza, Khayelisha, near Cape Town were caught in an appalling political tug of war between the official opposition party and the youth wing of the ruling party over the supply of toilets. The streets are burning, it will be interesting to see if society will act like a dysfunctional family pretending that all is rosy in front of guest or if they will emulate the sensational way they were described in the UK tabloids. One thing’s for sure though, the month long soccer spectacle is here, the best thing to do is to enjoy it. I don’t know how everybody else will be enjoying the tournament, I’ll be targeting lonely old british women, miscegenation for the win!