The game that makes us one

2018-05-13 05:56
Mondli Makhanya

Mondli Makhanya

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

There is this lovely story that has become folklore among those who love football and who believe that the world’s conflicts would be solved if everybody embraced the beautiful game.

It dates back to Christmas Day in 1914, during World War 1, when the Germans and Allies put down their weapons and played football. On that day, the soldiers spontaneously decided to let the guns and canons fall silent. They went into no-man’s-land and played football. For that one day, the little round leather object turned them into friends. Never mind the fact that for the next four years they shot and bombed the hell out of each other. The point is that no other human endeavour could have made sworn enemies put aside their hatred and enjoy Christmas together.

This weekend marked the end of the football season in many countries around the world, an emotional time for the majority of the planet’s residents.

Last weekend, the penultimate of the 2017/18 season, we witnessed beautiful scenes at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal fans bade farewell to Arsène Wenger, the second-greatest football manager in the history of the English league. Wenger took the opportunity to pass his well-wishes to the ailing Alex Ferguson, the greatest manager in the history of the English league. He was joined by the rest of the global football community, who flooded the social media universe with messages of support for 76-year-old Ferguson, who underwent emergency brain surgery recently.

The end of the season sees those who love the beautiful game say fond farewells to legends. Andrés Iniesta will be leaving FC Barcelona, which has been his home for 22 years. After eight years as the towering figure at Manchester, Yaya Touré will be leaving for a team where he will play out the remaining years of his career. Described by his coach Pep Guardiola as “one of the most important players in the whole history” of the game, the gangly Touré is the consummate footballer. There are legends in other leagues who we will miss when the action resumes in August.

Normally the end of the season is a sad time for those who love the game. We contemplate two months of nothingness, a barren time when The Bachelorette and Our Perfect Wedding become options as we play with the remote.

This year, the off season will be different. This is World Cup year and, from June 10, we will be watching the gladiators and artists share the green lawns of Russia. Billions of human beings across the globe will be glued to television screens in their homes, in pubs and in public viewing areas to witness the world’s finest footballers do battle for sport’s most coveted prize.

So why are we talking about football at a time when Donald Trump has made the world a more dangerous place; when Supra Mahumapelo has shown that he is the reincarnation of Lucas Mangope; when Natasha Mazzone – the blondest woman in politics – has appropriated blackness; when Jacob Zuma has used virginity testing rites as an opportunity to fulfil his fantasies and when extremists have invaded places of worship?

It is because football is the one thing in the world that has the ability to make the bulk of humanity abundantly happy. It is something that transcends all other forms of art and achieves much more in making humans feel as one.

To quote author, intellectual and feminist Germaine Greer: “Soccer is an art more central to our culture than anything the Arts Council deigns to recognise.”

During those three weeks in June and July, every Egyptian – from the Muslim Brotherhood to millennials who led the Arab Spring – will be cheering for Mohamed Salah. Boko Haram militants will join the hip citizens of Lagos in cheering for the Nigerian national side. Supporters and opponents of Brexit will put aside their differences to shout for Dele Alli, Jordan Henderson and Jack Buckland.

In Saudi Arabia, religious law enforcers will keep one eye on the TV screens and let their more liberal compatriots misbehave just a little, while in Poland skinheads will be on the same page as woke activists. And we South Africans will be dreaming of the year 2042, when Bafana Bafana eventually qualify for the global showpiece.

On the streets of Moscow the hundreds of thousands who will have flocked to Russia to enjoy the spectacle will be one people. They will sing, dance and get drunk together like old friends. The rougher elements will engage in hooliganism and break bottles over each others’ heads, but even that is a weird kind of appreciation of the game.

When the World Cup ends there will be a brief rest for the footballers before they return to their leagues to deliver us week in, week out action. And for the next four years until the next World Cup, football will continue to make us a better people, a centred species.

The last word goes to Albert Camus, the French-Algerian revolutionary and philosopher, who had this to say about the influence of the beautiful game on humanity’s humanism: “Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe to football.”

Read more on:    sport

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.