Two years ago, I attended a small media conference with a German journalist who came to South Africa to enlighten South Africans as to what to expect from Fifa bringing the World Cup to Africa. He was talking about his newspaper’s experience during the same tournament hosted in Germany in 2006.
It was basically a five-week party, he said. Life carried on afterwards. There was no major economic boom that was predicted… all that happened is Fifa walked away with all the loot.
Follow the money, he said. Those are the stories that will sell your newspapers. Expose Fifa for who they really are.
Now, I’ve long been milling over the question of “what happens after the world cup?” and reflecting on what our response should be as South Africans.
First up, I think everyone knows about how mafia-like Fifa are.
Recently I read a story talking about exactly this. The thrust of it is that Fifa are making SA spend money to host the tournament, and they ultimately take home all the profits, while the opportunity to help hundreds of poor people has been squandered.
Let me say, categorically, that I get it. Ok?
Fifa is scum.
BUT… not even Fifa could rob us of what we experienced as South Africans on that first weekend of the tournament, and continued to experience throughout the world cup. After years of listening to educated nay-sayers and critics, reading a constant stream about how much this all costs on the taxpayer and how wrong everything is with South Africa ahead the world cup…
…it arrived, and it worked. We did it. We were ready.
South Africans worked together – using local labour, skills and resources – to build stadiums and infrastructure while many thought the tournament was going to be moved to another, “better equipped” country.
We united behind our national soccer team for the first time in ages. We danced in the street together, colourblind. We blew our vuvuzelas, and the foreigners blew them too. Different socio-economic levels of South Africans joined together with people from around the world at matches and at fan parks.
A couple of people moaned and continue to moan, as that is what they do. But we, South Africans, joyously welcomed everyone to the best country in the world. The foreigners were surprised, because their media had lied to them about what this country is actually like. The media in SA was much the same, in my opinion.
We woke up every day to the sounds of Africa. And it felt damn good.
Simunye. We are one.
Cheers Fifa bosses. Take your money, and be it on your conscience. For me, we experienced some relief for the first time in a number of years: renewed hope.
I’m going to ignore the nay-sayers and most of the media headlines. South Africa HAS come a long way. We HAVE achieved incredible things as a nation, much of which is unseen and unpublicized.
Yes we have challenges. As Peter Davies wrote in an excellent article which I read on a friend’s website: “Funnily enough, we are well aware of the challenges we face as a nation and you will find that 95% of the population is singing from the same song-sheet in order to ensure that we can live up to our own exacting expectations.”
That 95% of us – black, white, Indian, coloured… heck, even Natanial – share a common vision for this beautiful country. What we read about in the media are the 5%, and we get all worked up about the ANC and Julius Malema and crime… and it takes over our focus.
Here’s what to do…
1. Don’t take all that stuff too seriously. Yes, there are some serious issues our country is facing. Yes, we have some corrupt officials in government. But remember too, that newspapers have to “sell” news. And they will continually gravitate towards this idea that “bad news sells”.
2. Remember that 95% of your South African brothers and sisters have similar values. We’re not actually that different. Yes, we stock different things in our kitchen and our choices in TV shows may vary. But we all have fears and anxieties, we all have preconceived ideas about each other. Deep down, however, I believe we all share a desire to live peacefully together in this nation. The good news is that we can, because most of us want the same thing.
This world cup has been great for South Africans, and 2010 has been a year that has defined so much for us as a nation. So looking ahead, I’m hopeful of a peaceful Mzansi, where we are even more simunye. Let’s make da circle beega.