Moses Mabhida Stadium - Durban, South Africa
(Photos : Phil Muller)
FIFA WORLD CUP
SOUTH AFRICA 2010
Today signals the beginning of the football World Cup in South Africa. Growing up, I never thought I’d see this day. We’ve hosted rugby and cricket World Cups in our time, but this is different. You have to live it to understand.
It is also the 80th birthday of my late mum’s dearest friend, Jean Almon, one of the most wonderful, serene ladies in the world. Much of my upbringing was influenced by her. People who visit the Cellars-Hohenort Hotel will know Jean. They are lucky; their lives will have been enriched. The gods must’ve known something when they decreed, 80 years ago, that she should’ve been born on the 11th of June.
I digress. Back to the World Cup. Even Sepp Blatter has said, he’s never witnessed such pre-tournament euphoria. He’s seen 18 World Cups. Our coach, who’s coached a World Cup winning team, complains it could be upsetting to a team charged with the responsibility of playing the opener. Only the “old” players are allowed to join the festivities.
There is an awful responsibility on this team. No host nation has ever failed to make the second round. We are ranked closer to 100 in the world, rather than in the direction in which most of the participants rank. South Africa is a sports-mad land, and the nation expects. Here, you fail, and you’re gone.
There is an awful responsibility on the country as well. When we earned the right to host, there were many who said, it wasn’t possible. How could we be ready?
Well, the reality is, we are. With the finest football stadiums the world has ever seen. The Gautrain, Africa’s finest ever high speed version, carried its first passengers to Oliver Tambo airport on Monday. On schedule. Our cities have never looked better. At the parochial level, old Durbs has undergone a metamorphosis. You’d not recognise the old lady if you saw her in the street.
But if you know South Africans, you wouldn’t be surprised. Of course, we have our problems, but this is not a day to dwell on these.
Fact is, there’s no country of our size that’s delivered up so many world class businesses in all of mankind’s history. So why not a World Cup?
Don’t be surprised if we do a little better than our rankings suggest. As a nation, we have the capacity to surprise.
Ayoba Bafana Bafana Ayoba!