PRETORIA, South Africa — The first round of the 2010 football World Cup games is complete and as usual full of surprises. For the first time in the history of the games the host nation has been eliminated in the first round as South Africa bowed out in a valiant but futile 2 -1 win over France. One could say that the absence of the host led to a kind of depression but this would miss the point entirely because the games continue the stadiums are full, and Africans love their football. Joy is in the air. South Africa was a long shot indeed to go far in the tournament fore like the thousands of local village teams throughout the world a couple of stars emerged from the South African squad but they were never expected to be much of a challenge to the Brazilians, the Argentines, and as it turned out the Uruguayans.
Many a South African had nightmarish dreams chasing the brilliant Mexican forward Dos Santos about the field.
There are some who would say that the poverty continues and the stadium shall be empty after the games, but they would miss the point. No one in the world ever said poverty would be eliminated if South Africa hosted the World Cup, that’s ridiculous. South Africa remains a deeply impoverished nation. Indeed there are pockets of extreme wealth, yet the vast majority of the population lives a precarious existence, struggling with lives challenges as best they can.
Fifteen years after the apartheid government was vanquished here we are still confronted with far, far too many remnants of destitutions. Behind the façade of painted fences and walls throughout the country, tin houses dot the landscape and serve as a reminder that the dreams of our living heroes like Mandela and the fallen warriors like Biko and Thambo of an equitable distribution of the wealth and an improvement in the standard of living for the vast majority of the people of the land have not been realized.
As the song goes our condition in South Africa is “Not Yet Uhuru.” Uhuru means freedom and liberation, freedom and liberation not just from the agonies of apartheid but from poverty and economic oppression. South Africa is a developmental state like Uruguay, Paraguay, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Botswana. One makes a great error in thinking that these states, which have segments of industrial, and social infrastructure, are in fact comparable to the advanced economies of the West.
A new road or a stadium does not indicate the transformation of society and far too many of our children and elders die each day for lack of access to adequate medical care whose cost are prohibitive to the middle class and the vast majority of working people.
The idea of having the World Cup in South Africa was intended to show soccer lovers everywhere that we are ready to host a major sporting event and hope that people who come for the games shall tell their friends about the wonderful sights and sounds they encountered during their journey to Africa, the motherland of humanity.
In this encouraging of football lovers to come to South Africa for the games we have opened up a new window into the world. Sports, and football in particular, is a type of universal language. In football one cannot restrict or confine the players and fans to any social class, racial, religious, or ethnic group. When you’re watching the match it makes no difference if the person next to you is the president of a country, a worker, or a peasant who won a ticket at the lottery you’re all enthralled at the joyous fluidity of the sport as it unfolds before your eyes. The vuvuzela horns were like a wall of sound encouraging the teams forward every step of the way.
Now, having laid in the befuddling tales of woe about football and society, the game between the USA and Algeria was a wonder to behold. The boys pulled out a victory from the jaws of defeat gaining a life saving 1-0 victory in the dying seconds of the match, and moving into the next stage of the tournament. We danced and sang deep into the night.
Photo: Axel Buhrmann/CC