Hlengiwe Mnguni

World Cup spirit

2010-06-10 12:53

As we stand a day away from the beginning of what is probably the most important four weeks in South African history it is apparent that there are many events, not just in this country but across the world, that will be eclipsed by the World Cup in our daily lives.

For some the timing could not have been better. Politicians are taking a breather as we take in the reality that a dream that has been in the making for five years is hours away from coming true. Little time is spent thinking about the extraordinary happenings at Cope for instance. For ordinary South Africans the confusion within the ANCYL makes little impression on them right now. Few are scratching their heads over what all this could signal.

But the World Cup was also just in time for the entire country as it became clear over the past few months that in our euphoria at a relatively smooth transition into democracy we underestimated the emotional baggage that still has us mired somewhere between true reconciliation and being total strangers who only meet in conflict.

It is not unimaginable to think that the World Cup will perform miracles for us. However, it would be unfortunate to decrease or not maintain our efforts at national unity at the same level we have for the World Cup.

While scenes that have taken place around our country in anticipation of the tournament demonstrate that we have a great capacity for uniting behind our national team and country, they should not be expected to automatically translate into instant unity and understanding post World Cup.

But perhaps if a fraction of the same attention to detail and organisation in generating this infectious World Cup spirit could be applied to finding a way to get South Africans to work towards the same vision we'd certainly be closer to finding a meaningful way to relate across racial, economic and social divides.

We can't always rely on big moments like this one or past sporting victories to save us from ourselves. We must appreciate them for what they are: Opportunities to see what we're made of. That when we think it counts and there's the pressure of the world on us, we are capable of doing great things together.

It was not too long ago that Bafana Bafana were risking abandonment even by their staunchest supporters. But now they are the centre of a fan frenzy that could only get more frantic with the national team's progress to the second group stage – and to many inspired South Africans, this is not as impossible as it seemed just a few months ago.

Right now our lives are lived to the soundtrack of vuvuzelas and every second conversation is punctuated by an enthusiastic "feel it". We can't help it. And although it helps set the mood, I hope we won't always have to have the vuvuzela affirming how inter-connected our lives are as South Africans.

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