A Nation Mourns As One (Almost)…

I know that I’ve previously mentioned (here and here) the issues around race and sport in South Africa and the difficulties these have caused in gaining support for the upcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament, which is due to start in South Africa at ten past eight. Or something.

Well, those issues surely came to a head this weekend, when the Springbok (rugby) side played Samoa in their World Cup, while Bafana Bafana (the football side) played Zambia in a vital African Cup of Nations qualifier SIMULTANEOUSLY AND AT THE SAME TIME!!!


A clear opportunity for a national racial divide then? Well, actually, not quite.


The Ad Wizard (if we were the less-amusing-than-it-used-to-be 2oceansvibe.com, we’d link to a list of friends, including the revolting Nic Marais, with nicknames related to their employment here, but we’re not, so we won’t) was despairing at my lack of commitment to going and watching the football and SMS’ed:

How on earth am
I going to find a
safrican to watch
the footie with. I
only know white
people.

In actual fact, things worked out ok and he, myself and The Political Analyst (dear god – it’s catching!) headed down to Newlands to support the boys in yellow, ignoring the apathy of the possibly predominantly white, rugby-watching couch potatoes.What we found there amazed us. A truly cosmopolitan crowd of every colour imaginable. (Actually, that’s a lie, there were no greens or lilacs, but you get what I mean, I’m sure.) And with unreserved seating, the atmosphere build up started early.

White kids dragging their parents into the dark, vuvuzela-laden world of African football; the middle-aged, delighted at the opportunity to watch international sport at one fifth of the rugby prices; children of every age and creed sat on proud dad’s shoulders; and of course, the true fans in their colourful numbers – the ones who turn out rain or shine to watch the beautiful game.

This truly was a demonstration of The Rainbow Nation: race, preconceptions and issues left at the turnstiles, problems forgotten for 90 minutes as everyone waved their flags, blew their horns and got behind the national team. You just don’t get this universal, inclusive passion at rugby matches. Check the video if you don’t believe me.

What an opportunity for Bafana Bafana to win over the sceptics, the naysayers and the critics.
And what better way to do it than going 0-3 down to Zambia inside 21 minutes, each goal presented on a silver platter by a hapless defence to a grateful Chris Katongo?
Amazingly, the atmosphere didn’t die, as Bafana created chance after chance. And local hero Benni McCarthy did score early in the second half. But despite a valiant effort, the damage was done and the fans went home entertained, but disappointed.

Even though the game ended in defeat for the home side, I’d like to think that a few more 2010 supporters were gained from the fantastic support and the amazing mood inside the the stadium.It was all in stark contrast to the last 15 minutes of the rugby we watched when we got back home, which seemed quiet, dull and distant in comparison, despite the more positive result.