My World Cup Moment: South Africa is ayoba!

2010-06-19 22:50

Uruguayan-born soccer fan Mauricio Janauskas

has also become a fan of our country.

It’s been a week since the 2010 Fifa World Cup had started and the

world speaks of only one thing: soccer.

I’m lucky to be in South Africa at this time.

I’ve read so many articles in the last few days about the “terrible

things” that are happening during the World Cup that I wanted to share my

impressions, based on what I’ve experienced since I got here. It seems that the

many who are having an awesome time in South Africa do not have time to write

about it!

Logistics

Moving from city to city has been extremely easy – there was an

energetic reception at each airport with vuvuzelas and flags all over, flights

were always on time, we had no issues with luggage, taxis were always available

and those who rented cars had no problems (except for having to get accustomed

to driving on the left side of the road – but you would have the same problem in

the coming Olympics in London).

Moving inside cities it’s also been pretty easy: You can get taxis

everywhere (at reasonable prices).

It took us less than 45 minutes at the airport in Johannesburg to

get local money, print our tickets for the matches and get a prepaid phone for

$25.


Crime

No doubt South Africa has security issues to solve. Having spent

90% of the time moving around, I can say that I do not feel more insecure than I

feel in Brazil (the country where I live and the host of the next World Cup in

2014).

A friend of mine’s car was stolen and I’ve heard of a few other

incidents but you can see significant efforts to minimise this problem with

police deployed all over.

There is no reason why the World Cup should be organised only in

developed countries in the EU, North America or some Asian countries. I can

think of many reasons why it should be hosted in developing countries:

» Soccer is a global

passion.

» Developing countries have

been an amazing source of talent.

» It’s an opportunity to learn

about world problems outside a statistics book.


Two years ago we had the Olympics in China: it’s interesting that

people seem to complain more about dealing with crime than attending an event in

a non-democratic country where freedom of speech is disregarded.


Organisation and stadiums

I’ve been in three of the 10 World Cup stadiums and I can say that

they have nothing to envy compared with stadiums such as Santiago Bernabéu or

Camp Nou (in Spain).

Beyond the amazing environment, you feel inside the South African

World Cup stadiums and the infrastructure is top-notch. Everything is clean and

you can find everything you need.

It’s true that getting a soda can take you longer if you come from

Western countries, but as a tourist guide told me: “British have watches,

Africans have time!” This is just how things work here. It’s not because of a

lack of planning and we are not going to change that.

Stadiums were not full and its sad because there are thousands of

locals that haven’t been able to get tickets in the draw and would have loved to

be part of the party – Fifa has made some efforts to offer affordable tickets

but more could have been done to fill empty seats.

In several places, the organisation has developed huge fan centres

with enormous screens and other cool attractions – obviously it’s not the

stadium, but you can feel an amazing environment with fans carrying their flags

and vuvuzelas.

People

South Africans are extremely nice people – and when I say that, I’m

referring to rich and poor, black and white. Everyone greets you, everyone

smiles, everyone dances, everyone volunteers, many take our pictures or ask us

to take pictures with them (for many this the closest they can get to visiting

our countries), and many even come to thank us for visiting South Africa!

Have you ever done that with a tourist to your country? Many have

complained about the “annoying” vuvuzela noise (me included), but once here, we

learned that this is part of the local culture and it’s how they live soccer –

why would we change it?

I can’t imagine Bafana Bafana fans complaining in the next World

Cup that Brazilian fans jump, play samba, and cheer during the 90 minutes of the

match.

I hope I will remember this Cup as the place where my country won

its third star after so long, but in case this doesn’t happen I will always

think of 2010 as the World Cup where people smiled and danced.


The warmth is all over: we have danced with salespeople at a store,

we have taken funny pictures with people we’ve never met, I’ve got my face

painted at a supermarket by a lady who spent 25 minutes trying to replicate the

Uruguayan flag. It ended up so nicely drawn that it was captured during the game

in a picture that ended up on the Fifa site and some e-newspapers. People are

really warm here.


Prices

Hotel prices sky-rocketed a few months ago and it made us fear that

prices were going to be crazy while in South Africa. We were wrong, prices have

gone up, but you can get a 15-minute taxi for $7, have a light meal for less

than $10, get into the best club in Cape Town for $6 and taste five premium

wines for $4.


Racial issues

The day I got here I read an article from a foreign journalist

saying that now white people are facing segregation from the blacks and that he

could feel that in the street – well, I haven’t.

I can only speak for my short stay here – I’ve seen and talked to

several locals. I bet the country is still facing the open wounds of the brutal

apartheid but let’s not forget that it ended only 16 years ago.

You see limited mixed couples, you still hear some comments that

you would prefer not to hear but this country recognises its problem, knows it

has made big mistakes in the efforts to re-distribute wealth and is thinking of

how to improve.

Equality will only come when many more have opportunities but this

will only change with time and education. I wish many more developed countries

were humble enough to recognise their deep problems of segregation. Racism is

far from being a South African issue only.

Was South Africa therefore the right choice to host the World Cup?

Absolutely!

Having talked to several locals, this event is clearly a highlight

in the history of this country, a critical step in the unification process this

country has been living since the end of apartheid and a great push to

strengthen soccer in Africa.

I’m sure the impact this World Cup will have in South Africa is

many times bigger than the impact it had in Germany in ‘06 or in France in

‘98.

South Africa, through its leading economy, is showing the world

that this region is not only the main reception centre of humanitarian aid and

volunteers but also a place with the skills to host the second most important

sports event, leveraging the warmth of its people and its diversity.

When we think of Africa, we tend to associate it with Aids, hunger,

and civil wars. While we should not forget these huge dilemmas, I hope this Cup

starts to remind us of Africa also with images of happiness and kindness.

I would definitely recommend it to my friends to add this destiny

to their must-see places.


South Africa is ayoba!

» Send your World Cup moments and

pictures to web@citypress.co.za

 

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