When the game is over

2010-06-12 11:59

What happens on July 12 when the flags come down, the visitors pack

up and leave, and ­Zakumi hobbles off to the dump site outside town?

Do we

return to being a nation in ­perpetual protest?


Once Sepp Blatter gives us back

our country, do we go back to carping about the potholes, the taxis and the

commotion at the “revolutionary house” in Sauer Street, or will this incredible

national pride gripping our country endure?

The answer, perhaps, lies in how this sense of nationhood came to

be.

Unlike the release of Nelson Mandela, the national identity ­evident on our

streets was not negotiated by political leaders on our behalf.

The spirit rose

from inside our homes and communities, and swept across our land.

Just the other day, we were moaning about the exorbitant capital

expenditure of the World Cup, dripping in sarcasm about Irvin and Danny’s brawl

over who gets to hold the keys to the Safa safe and ignoring all the coaxing to

buy tickets early.


Then suddenly the marketing explosion hit home, the jingoism took

root and we all wanted to be able to say “I was there!”.

We donned the boep-hugging Bafana­

T-shirts on Fridays and the

traffic light ­menaces started doing a roaring trade with flags and mirror

socks. We have resigned ourselves to becoming a hearing-impaired nation with a

vuvuzela in every home and have sacrificed our personal dignity to do the diski

dance. ­

Although the ranking of our national team competes with Madiba’s age, we

live in hope it will ­triumph.

It is because this national pride is not artificial and belongs to

the citizens of this country, that no individual should be able to claim it,

abuse it or destroy it.

It is also the reason this “gees” has ­overcome the hysterics in

some ­foreign media about the murder of a white supremacist, the assault on all

sense of civility by a brash youth leader, the battles for domination in the ANC

and the Congress of the People, and the troubles besetting the First

Family.

It has expunged some of the self-loathing we felt two years ago

when mass hysteria led to fanatical violence against our African brothers and

sisters. In some ways, we hope the World Cup will bring some redemption among

those who fear and despise us.

It is difficult to buy into the hype that this tournament belongs

to South Africans because we know there are ­millions across the country who

cannot afford the tickets or live in Fifa-deprived areas where the only access

to the games are via their television sets – SABC crises permitting.

But this tournament was made possible because of the sweat of

ordinary people who slogged to build the stadiums, roads, hotels and airports.

Some of them will be given a ticket to watch a game and those of us lucky to

­conquer Fifa’s ridiculous ticketing system can proudly take our seats alongside

the ­people who built our nation.

Meanwhile, the well-heeled will watch the

games of their choice in luxurious suites.

That is sadly the nature of the unequal ­society we live in and the

World Cup, despite its magic and the promise of goodwill, ­cannot tackle the

unjust social hierarchies or the many problems of our country.

However, the story of the 2010 soccer World Cup in South Africa

will be told for generations to come, chronicling how a ­nation pulled together

to stage Africa’s ­biggest showpiece, as well as the on-field brilliance,

victories and tragedies.

The genesis of that story is what makes it so special for those of

us old enough to remember and young enough to tell it.

It ­began in a country

divided by a brutal political system on dusty, patchy grounds with net-less

goalposts where our grandfathers and fathers stubbed their toes to score

penalties and where ragged, mismatched football kits hung out to dry on droopy

fences on Monday mornings.

It began when the ­neighbourhood gathered to watch

scratchy black and white images on a tiny TV screen and when children chased a

muddy, ­punctured ball on a dirt road.

Soccer was the game of poor, black people and was discriminated

against as were those who loved and played it. It is therefore ­perhaps the

greatest irony that what unites us now in this glorious national pride is what

used to oppress and divide us then.

So when the back-slapping and withdrawal symptoms start on July 12,

we must all claim the triumph of being part of this ­moment in our country’s

history and ­celebrate the spirit that carried us on to those fields of

dreams.

» ?Munusamy is head of communications in the ­higher education department


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