MATCH MANIA: Over 6000 appeared in Hatfield, Pretoria, for the opening match: South Africa vs Mexico on June 11, 2010. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets
Ke nako – it is time! It is here! Or, so it was. I remember starting varsity in 2004 when we first got the go-ahead to host the Soccer World Cup.
Ex-president Nelson Mandela’s smiling face was plastered all over our newspapers. We had done it. We were to make Africa proud.
Here I am overwhelmed by the aftermath. The first World Cup on African soil is over.
My phone doesn’t ring anymore with thick accents on the other side. My Argentinian and German friends have all gone home. What a fiesta we did have! I even miss the sound of vuvuzelas waking me up in the morning or my fish lips after blowing mine.
Even my granny (88) was caught in the soccer hype, humming Shakira’s soccer anthem “Waka waka”. Suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, it would probably be her last World Cup. My deceased grandfather’s wish had come true: “One day, my darling, South Africa will host the World Cup. People will sing and dance as one. Mark my words.” His words haunted me till the opening ceremony. Everything fell into place. The foreign media rated us 9/10. Only the Uruguayan team complained about our beautiful country, diverse people and interesting culture.
FUN MASCOT: Tourists had fun with mascot Zakumi in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets
Back in Pretoria, my brother, friends and I were ready to party with the French, Italians and Brazilians. They all exited the World Cup quite quickly. 2010 was to be the year of the underdogs. Unfortunately, “our boys” Bafana Bafana didn’t get passed the first round.
But Bafana Bafana did make us proud.
For Malte H, a German tourist I befriended, they were perfect ambassadors of our rainbow nation:
“They showed the world what they were capable of: a united identity, capable of stirring so many emotions. They were not just players; they became ambassadors of a wonderful host nation. One capable of miracles.”
My passion for Deutschland (Germany) became an obsession. My mom knitted black, red and yellow legwarmers, beanies and scarves. Seemingly, it paid off. Once again, they secured third place. The “virgin final” (neither team had won the trophy before) between Netherlands and Spain was long and dirty, with a record breaking number of yellow cards.
HUP HUP HOLLAND: Of all fans, the Dutch ésprit was the most unforgettable. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets
Like a Mexican wave, the Post-Traumatic Soccer Disorder spread to most of us. Jeremy Nell, a South African cartoonist, commented on his blog: “Sadly, everyone has gone home. The Spaniards back to Spain. The Dutch back to Netherlands and the Nigerians back to Hillbrow.” His words may have overshadowed the xenophobic attacks that, unfortunately, were to follow.
Madam & Eve’s cartoon on our beloved soccer mascot Zakumi (a yellow leopard with green hair; the colours of our national team) was sadly funny. Zakumi ‘after 2010’ holds up a placard: “No work. No job. No food.” This was the cause for our present state of limbo: what about our enormous stadiums? What about all those jobs? What about our spirit of Ubuntu: does it just disappear?
Now, I tell my Zakumi doll peacefully asleep on my bed: “E Tsamayile!” It is gone! But, the memory lives on. As do the photos, t-shirts and vuvuzelas resounding all over the world! Viva Afrika! Viva!