2010 World Cup: The last game

[Editors’ note: This “Notes from the Edge” was written before the final World Cup game, which Spain won. But the article contains so much interesting background information about the games and about South Africa that we think readers will want to read it nevertheless.

We want to thank Wayne Edge and Frank Mabonga for their insightful coverage during this month of exciting and historic 2010 World Cup. And special thanks to Rossana Cambron for coordinating it for mundopopular.org and peoplesworld.org.]

PRETORIA, South Africa — Well, the final game of the 2010 Football World Cup shall be played on Sunday, July 11, between Spain and Holland. The nation and people of South Africa have been gracious hosts to more than 500,000 fans from throughout the world who came to view the games held in Africa for the first time.

As the teams take the field the Dutch shall be cheered on and encouraged to win the match by about 75,000 screaming and vuvuzela blowing fans, the majority of the 85,000 people in the stands, for at least one tribe of South Africans, the Afrikaners, who are their direct descendants.

In a way sitting amongst the Black South Africans rooting for the Dutch team is super strange because most Black South Africans remember a time when they did not cheer their white native citizens on anything, but giving up political power and leaving the country.

Curiously, now we find ourselves confronted with a paradox of immense proportions because there are very few South Africans, of any racial hew, that would argue that the Afrikaners do not belong in South Africa.

For the South African descendants of the Dutch, South Africa is the only home they have ever known, and even though they installed apartheid, when it fell they stayed on the land they have grown to love over 300 years as the nation made the transition to a democratic developmental state, warts and all.

Unlike the rest of the continent the South African liberation struggle did not destroy the infrastructure of the country. Yet by promoting regional conflicts the old apartheid state engaged in proxy wars backed by the U.S.-led Western capitalist superpowers. Angola, Mozambique and Namibia were the scenes of horrific wars with direct South African intervention for decades, and they are only now recovering.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo hosted Che Guevara, as a revolutionary guerilla fighting side by side with the liberation army, for a time in the early 1960s, after the legitimate government of Patrice Lumumba was overthrown, in part by the CIA with racist South African government assistance, and the dictatorial regime of Mobuto Sese Seko was foisted upon the people. The DRC has not recovered from the apartheid government’s intervention into its affairs, and it shall take decades before they find the type of peace, development and security South Africa is now blessed with.

Before they joined the African National Congress while in exile, the friends I stay with in South Africa were members of the Black Consciousness Movement and they, along with hundreds of thousands of others, were part and parcel of the SOWETO youth uprising of 1976.

One of the major issues of the revolutionary youth was the attempt by the apartheid government to make the learning of the ancient Dutch language of Afrikaans mandatory for all South Africans.

Now, in South Africa, we have 12 official languages, so no one is forced to learn a language they do not want. But millions of Black South Africans speak Afrikaans each day and tens of thousands are trying to learn it in schools throughout the country.

One of my friends is a director of the University of Pretoria, a former bastion of Afrikaner power where Afrikaans is the language of instruction. However, while he spends a disproportionate amount of time speaking Afrikaans in the midst of the White Afrikaner intellectuals each day, he once noted, “I never met an Afrikaner who openly stated that they supported apartheid. But they all benefited from it. We had a country where the entire infrastructure was created for the benefit of the small racial minority. The roads, schools, water system, electricity grid, and health care services were structured around the idea of being used by the thirty percent of the population who were White. Hence once democratic elections were held all these services, the entire social infrastructure, had to be upgraded so that it could be utilized by everyone in the country.”

The cost for expanding the infrastructure of a nation as large as South Africa these days are astronomical. Just to host the World Cup games cost South Africa $4 billion (U.S.).

Yet the upside of the 2010 World Cup games is advancement for the majority of South Africans. The tourist needed the road system to be of a world standard, so it was upgraded to satisfy their needs. The visitors needed water, electricity and other services spread throughout the country, so even the poorest South African now has access to these services at relatively affordable prices.

The biggest direct beneficiaries of these games are the people involved in the tourist sector which created thousands of jobs. Just as importantly, by their interaction with people from all the countries of the world, those employed in tourism and entertainment gained a new sense of confidence that they can communicate effectively, deliver goods and services and get paid handsomely for it. There are going to be thousands upon thousands of entrepreneurs finding niches developed from these games and that in itself is a great blessing moving forward.

The game, oh yes the final game of the 2010 World Cup. Although I cheered for Holland against Uruguay this was only a result of my conviction that cheating should not be rewarded by victory. As the result showed “Ill-gotten gain is quickly squandered” and Uruguay was vanquished.

Now with all the African and Latin American teams out of the tournament, and Europe standing on the threshold of victory, I’m picking the Spanish to take home the cup. I doubt that anyone in the world can stop David Villa from scoring right now, and the Dutch do not have an equivalent striking force at their disposal. Moreover, playing the type of football inspired by Barcelona, with the Spanish team there is a kind of smooth flowing beauty to the game which one can only love and wish others to emulate of fields around the world.

I’m predicting the score will be 3 to 1 in favor of the team from Spain. However, the 75,000 fans in the stands cheering the Dutch on represent a home field advantage which just might turn the tide and help lead Holland to victory. We have watched some amazing football being played in a wonderful nation so to me the winner of the cup is almost secondary to the fact that it was played in South Africa and the people of this great land all won something here. Viva Espania, Viva Holandia, Viva the World Cup, Viva la Vida.

Photo: Axel Bührmann/CC