Here we go. The world cup has begun. After years of hype, speculation and hope, the World Cup, arguably the greatest sporting tournament in the world comes to African soil for the first time.
South Africa will be proud, noisy and euphoric hosts of a month of football at the highest level. A ‘rainbow nation’ welcoming fans and visitors from across the globe, waving the flags of 32 teams who have earned the right to take part. The vuvuzelas will be ringing in our ears long after the final game.
Choosing a team to support on grounds of a favourable justice record is hard. I hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be. Most media outlets, monitoring groups and NGO’s are not in the habit of blowing the trumpets of those who have performed well. Overall, what I found is that nobody is perfect.
However, in the end, the decision became easy. I am an Englishman, and a football fan. I have to be optimistic. So, I have chosen South Africa. Which team and nation has a better opportunity to move forward, out of this tournament, than South Africa? None.
I am supporting progress.
I am supporting optimism.
I am looking forwards.
I am supporting ‘Bafana Bafana’.
South Africa has a unique opportunity. After the segregation of apartheid that has gone before, the country can unite and celebrate how far it has come.
Nelson Mandela, an icon for South Africa, and the world, said in his world cup message,
“The time for the healing of the wounds, has come. The moment to breach the chasms that divides us – has come.”
46 years ago today, during apartheid, Mandela was convicted, along with 7 comrades, of sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment. Today’s kick-off marks a remarkable shift in the history of South Africa.
The country is far from perfect. Huge inequalities remain. There has been criticism of forced evictions of street traders in the run-up to the world cup, as the country prepares for the eyes of the world. But the tournament, and the team, represents the determination and spirit of the nation, to respect it’s past, and to move forwards with renewed strength, towards a more equal and united rainbow nation.
As Bafana Bafana’s current manager says,
“It is difficult not to be affected by the joy the World Cup has brought to South Africa”.
I have always loved football, although as a Luton Town fan, I’ve seen some ups and downs. It’s fun. It’s controversial. It’s an escape. It’s a chance to shout in unison at a TV with strangers in a pub. It’s made me hug people I’ve never met. I have just seen pictures of people who have never watched football on TV before, cheering on Bafana Bafana. The nation has a chance to unite. That’s why I’m supporting South Africa.
Come on Bafana Bafana! Stranger things have happened… Perhaps its destiny.
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Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.
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