Saturday, June 12, 2010

National Pride, Jubilation & the Fifa World Cup in South Africa

South Africa is awash in flags – not just the South African flag, but flags of all nations. Flags drape buildings, line the sides of the roads, fly from the windows of cars and decorate office spaces. Street hawkers stand in intersections and wave the flags for sale – the vibe is one of celebration. The air is thick with energy, of excitement and passion. The feeling is everywhere – in the streets, on the radio, the television, and in everyday conversation – pervasive and inescapable. Finally after years of preparation, scepticism and anticipation, today is the dawn of the Fifa World Cup, surely the biggest event of its kind ever in Africa.

In the early hours of the morning, even before the sunrise, I wake to the sounds of a distant vuvuzela – that monotone sounding horn that creates an ear-splitting decibel, greater than a chainsaw but much beloved as a symbol for the Cup by everyone. On my way to work I drive past an open-air tour bus on its way through Camps Bay, full of celebrating fans singing songs, blowing vuvu’s, waving and hanging themselves over the sides. I remind myself that it’s still only 8AM. Coming through town I pass a flat bed truck full of workers in overalls singing and dancing in much the same fashion. As I drive past the ferris wheel that has suddenly appeared in the centre of town, gleaming in the morning sun, it is hard to believe that today is supposed to be a normal work day.

Once at the office the mood is one of delirium and I continue to wonder what I am doing here. Finally, about lunchtime, I am free and make my way through to the City Bowl – on the way I get the feeling I am about to be part of something very important. The highway to town is eerily deserted – not due to poor turnout but because it seems everyone is already there. The fan walk near Green Market Square means that some of the streets are blocked off, but even on those that aren’t the crowds roam freely, striding wherever they please, forming a fabric of green and gold, South Africa’s team colours. The sound of hundreds of vuvuzeles becomes a singular buzz, like I am inside a giant vibrating beehive.

I leave the City Bowl for the Waterfront, where big screens have been set up to watch the very first game, South Africa vs. Mexico. Again the park is overcrowded with celebrations and there is no chance of getting near the viewing area – the closer I get to the screen the more crowded – shoulder-to-shoulder and in some places even less, to the point I cannot move unless the crowd that I have somehow lost myself within, decides to. Surrounded by fans singing, dancing and waving flags, unable to move forwards or backwards and being shoved along by the energy of the herd, my mind flashes back to stories of stampedes and balcony collapses and I understand how those things can happen. Time passes and eventually I spill out of the group and back to myself, to my own volition.

I find a more comfortable place out of the way – with a view of a TV off in the distance. After a while South Africa scores the first goal of the Cup and the crowd erupts explosively, the noise crackles and reverberates everywhere. It’s hard not to get swept up, to feel the pride of the nation, to be part of the stampede of frenetic joy that has combusted across the nation – I can’t help but feel it and know that the World Cup, ayoba, is here.


  1. It has to be so amazing to be there right now. What an experience :D

  2. I was going to ask you you what it was like being there. Sounds amazing, you described it so vividly. Enjoy!!

  3. The soccer must be so exciting! Joe and I really liked your blog about it... so exciting. -Didi