You can call Barcelona’s visit to South Africa whatever you want, from a one-night stand to millions of rands going down the drain, but one thing is for sure – the match united the country.
The friendly game against Mamelodi Sundowns will go down in the history books as one of the most memorable moments in the country as it once again demonstrated the ability sport has to bring people together.
Former president Nelson Mandela’s words came to life again on Wednesday when South Africans from all walks of life braved the chilly weather and flocked to FNB Stadium.
“Sport has the power to change the world,” Mandela said. “It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”
It was befitting that this game was played in his honour, and the event could not have come at a better time as South Africans need something good to talk about.
There have been so many negative things dominating the discourse lately, but, if only for a moment, we all forgot about our differences and embraced one another.
Although many people attended the match because they wanted to see the likes of Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Luis Suárez in action, they portrayed the rainbow nation in a good light.
It was great to be part of the spectacle and see leaders of political parties come together under one roof and – for once – not shout at each other.
It was an exciting night and the atmosphere was electric.
This is the kind of comradeship we need in the country.
It was the same with the 2010 soccer World Cup and the 1995 rugby World Cup – black and white came together to show that we can put our differences aside and work towards a common goal of building the nation.
It was good to see people walking together and tolerating each other.
However, as soon as Barca left the country, we were back to square one. Politics and criminal activity once again took the spotlight.
The challenge now is to continue with the same momentum and prove we are above petty politics. After all, this is the kind of country we all want.
Thanks to Sundowns president Patrice Motsepe for bringing Barcelona here.
In the end, the 3-1 score in Barca’s favour did not matter at all – what mattered was the camaraderie and the unity that prevailed.
Follow me on Twitter @TimSpiritMolobi