Indentured football fans

2010-06-18 00:00

ON Wednesday, I readied myself for the Bafana Bafana match, excited and patriotic in my South-African-flag scarf and Fifa World Cup jacket (sans the green- and-gold Bafana Bafana supporter shirt due to a lack of funds in my piggy bank).

The resounding South African anthem made me grin with triumph. South Africa had done it, South Africa had completed the mammoth task of renovating the country to earn Fifa’s stamp of approval, disproving six years of negative comments from cynics around the world.

Then the match began and, after seven minutes, despite Steven Pienaar’s shoe slipping off, I found myself drifting off to sleep, bored by the men running from one side of the field to the other. I opted to play Sudoku on my phone while occasionally glancing at the TV screen to see Bafana Bafana subjugate themselves to Uruguay’s unanticipated mastery.

While there is an abundance of flags adorning cars, houses, malls and offices, there also exists an abundance of South Africans who are not fans of football. They choose the R39 yellow-and-green T-shirts over the official Bafana Bafana football shirts. They blow their vuvuzelas in small crowds knowing that the sound is less annoying from the side of the mouthpiece. They sit in front of their televisions during the World Cup matches, Mxiting, Tweeting or Facebooking on their cellphones.

Which leads me to the question: is it okay to be proudly South African and not be concerned with the football? It feels as if all the nonfootball fans are unpatriotic. By hosting the World Cup, South Africans seem to have signed an invisible contract that states that they will be entertained by the football or face being left out of conversations and awkward silences caused by ignorance.

Ironically, it was while shopping during the opening match last Friday, that I became exposed to the essence of the World Cup. I stood in the mall cringing at the cacophony caused by the countless vuvuzelas while grinning with pride at Bafana Bafana’s first goal.

The World Cup has blanketed South Africans in national pride, a pride that South Africa has been struggling to create since the demise of apartheid. The distinction between black and white supporters has been replaced by a diversity of cultures, races and religions who all sing the South African anthem in unison. The World Cup has given South Africans a reason to be proudly South African — with or without having to view the never-ending month of football matches.

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