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.

Taking Shorty to the WBHS

One of the more mundane tasks I do from time to time in my line of work is to travel to another lab nearby and collect specimens for our experiments. This basically involves tipping infected sputum from 240 tubes into… er… 240 more tubes.

I’m sure Lizzy M and the other tutors on my Masters course would be proud to see my agile scientific mind being utilised so thoroughly. It’s not exactly rocket science. That would involve boosters, liquified gases and exciting roaring noises, none of which I have the luxury of enjoying.


I do, however, get to listen to Heart 104.9 – which claims to be “The Soul of Cape Town” – while I’m there, blasting out the latest sounds via a tinny clock radio in the corner. It’s not my kind of music. In fact, most of it seems to be about how some bloke is going to take “Shorty” “to the VIP” and what “Shorty” is going to do for him in return. Presumably, the “Shorty” in question, isn’t Danny DeVito. The thought of him rewarding Notorious LARD for entry into the back room of some LA nightclub is just not appealing. Well, not to me anyway.
My own little Shorty, all 75cm and 11.4kg of him (that’s slightly taller, but much lighter than Danny DeVito) continues to be frustrated by the chilly winter weather. He knows that there’s mud to be eaten on Wynberg Boys High School field and he knows that he’s the toddler for the job. We had a great time chasing geese and ibissess.. ibiss’s.. ibii.. an ibis (x2) up there last week.

. .Rugger?  Boy  Guilty
More pics here.

He’s not the only one that’s fed up with winter now.
In between the dry and sunny (but chilly) days came yesterday. Grey, moody, windy and a bit wet.
A bit like Michael Douglas, but without the Welsh tart on its arm.
Not really that bad, but enough for the organisers to postpone our football match in case we got a bit cold and damp. Pathetic. If we called off games for weather like that in the UK, we’d never kick a damn ball.

Next week’s game is an early kick off, which will allow the team to head off to Newlands immediately after the final whistle to see some “real” football – Pele, Eto’o, Gullit, Radebe and a myriad of other international stars in the 90 minutes for Mandela exhibition match.
Let’s hope they don’t cancel everything there because of a bit of drizzle on the breeze…

Postcard from Cape Town

Hello there. How’s the conference going?

I must say that at first sight, five days in a 5-star hotel overlooking the Victoria Falls in Zambia didn’t seem to be the worse scenario in the world, but I’m sure you’re all working damn hard out there between the drinking sessions, although the thunderous noise of the spectacular 108m high, 1.7km long wall of falling water must be a little off-putting. As you know, I’ve never been, but I’m guessing it’s something like our back garden a couple of weeks ago. I still haven’t found our goat, by the way.
I can’t believe your phone isn’t working – curse those yellow freaks at MTN. Curse them.

Not much news from here. Of course, we miss you. Alex regularly breaks off from tearing the pages of his nursery rhyme book to go and investigate the Case of the Missing Mum by peering round the nearest corner to see where you’re hiding.
I do try to explain, but by that time he’s moved onto hugging his teddy or playing with the contents of your underwear drawer. How come he’s allowed to do that, but I’m not?

Anyway, we’re getting on just fine, despite his “dirty protest” in the bath on Wednesday evening. It wasn’t as bad as the last time he did it – I wasn’t actually in the bath with him this time. *shudder*
I’ve been using that old South African Klippies-in-the-bedtime-bottle trick your mum said she used to use on you. I can’t say for sure if he’s been sleeping through but generally I have been as I’ve been finishing the Klipdrift off once he’s passed out. I can’t allow him to drink alone, now can I?
Interestingly, he seems to handle the blinding headaches of the following morning better than I do.
I’m quite envious. </font

I hardly like to mention it, but tonight is the big England v Brazil friendly at Wembley. You must be gutted. I know you would have loved to have watched it with me, so I’ll look up when it’s repeated when you come back and we can enjoy it together then. Maybe it’ll be repeated twice if you’re lucky.
But that’s assuming I can get out of the hospital past the picket lines this evening. I tried to appear all cool by joining in their songs and toyi-toying on the way through the gate this morning, but I just ended up singing “Shongololo” instead of “Shosholoza” and proving that white men really can’t jump. I like to think they appreciated my efforts though and that they were laughing with me. Possibly anyway.

Tomorrow looks like being Saturday and so I’ll plonk the boy into his car seat and we’ll hit the beach and eat some sand together (washed down with some more Klippies). He’s expressed a wish to take up ornithology ever since he saw that “Puffin with Muffins” page in his rhyming book, so I thought that Sandy Bay would be the obvious choice, where you can see plenty of Capetonian birds in their… erm… natural plumage. We’ll probably just sit back and admire them preening or something and knock back a couple more Klippies. We’re not addicted though. Oh no.

OK – I must get to the bottle store before it closes.
We’ll see you at the airport on Sunday.
If I’m too drunk, Alex has said that he’ll drive. If he’s too drunk as well, I guess you’ll have to get a taxi.
Til then dearest,

Me.x

Sport and Racism in South Africa…

I read with interest the Ruck & Maul column by Ashfak Mohamed in today’s Cape Times. Ashfak is a rugby fan who was at the SA v England game in Bloemfontein last Saturday.


Ashfak isn’t white. (There was a photo).


He described what we’ve all seen at rugby matches across South Africa, namely an almost complete absence of black and coloured fans in the crowd; an embarrassing and hostile silence through the first verse of the national anthem (which is sung in isiXhosa), followed by a bellowing of Die Stem (the Afrikaans verse which also used to be the national anthem of the “old” South Africa) and players of colour being racially abused for their mistakes on the pitch.
His citing of previous racism at matches in Bloemfontein for this overwhelming majority of white fans got me thinking. Also on Saturday was the ABSA Cup final between Ajax Cape Town and Sundowns (that’s a soccer* game, folks). One wonders how many white fans were at that game? I would wager that it was fewer than blacks and coloureds in Bloem. But is that a problem? Well, obviously, it is a problem when racial abuse stops people from watching sport** – whatever their colour. But is that really the reason that these two games were attended by such completely different crowds?
I think it is only one part of the story.

According to southafrica.info, “Sport is the national religion. Transcending race, politics or language group, sport unites the country”

I laughed when I read that. Yes, this country could have gone down the road of civil war in 1994 and it didn’t, and for that everyone should be thankful. But saying that life is settled and the country is united in any form just because there’s no civil war is like saying that England did well at the rugby because they didn’t lose by, say, 100 points. Those claiming “racial harmony” are, to coin a cockney phrase, “having a larf”. This country is amongst the most divided in the world.

Insecurity, paranoia, resentment, retribution, disillusionment and distrust are plainly evident the way many South Africans live their daily lives. Those reading this will probably snort and dismiss this. “That’s not me.” they’ll say. I beg to differ.


The population here is divided into those who won’t openly admit to there being a problem, those who see the issues but don’t have a problem with them and the other 1% who want to sort things out but can’t overcome the apathy or engrained racist attitudes of the other 99%. Of course, 99% of the South Africans reading this think that they’re in that 1% – and that’s exactly the problem.

But back to sport.

Because of the unique history of this country, the lines of division run through every aspect of life. But perhaps the most public of these is sport. Well, that and politics, but no-one reads posts about politics. Sport is neatly divided in three in this country: Rugby, Cricket and Soccer. Of course, there are other sports played here, but those are the biggies. Rugby and cricket get the most press. They are the “white” sports. What distresses many of the rugby and cricket fans is that the official national sport of South Africa is… er… the other one. And that’s because the majority of the sporting population play football. Rugby and cricket come in very much second and third. How embarrassing.


And while there is a huge push to get more coloured and black players into the national teams for rugby and cricket to make the team more representative of the racial make-up of the country (often despite the fact that the players in question aren’t actually very good), there is no reciprocal push to get white players into the soccer team.

Ashfak suggests that beacuse the ANC is in power in the Free State, there must be a lot of black people living there and they should have been at the game. Nice big tarring brush you have there, sir.
But it seems to me that the major reason for the obvious racial divisions in South African sport is that for the vast majority of whites, soccer holds no interest and for the vast majority of blacks, rugby holds no interest. And as long as those few who want to watch and play a sport from “the other side” can, I don’t see a problem.


So Ashfak, while I agree with your comments regarding the Afrikaaners and their small-minded and right-wing attitudes, I think the major reason for the nearly all-white crowd last Saturday was really because they were the only ones actually interested.

*I hate this word. Obviously, I mean football, but that would just confuse everyone.
**or indeed doing anything.

On how life is right now…

So ends another mammoth gap in the annals of 6000 miles…. It’s really been a question of time and inclination. I’ve had both, but never at the same moment. I’m not about to disappoint my readership (or what’s left of it) with disappointingly poor social commentary, tired jokes and space fillers.

Neither of you would appreciate that.

Anyway: Yes, as widely predicted on this website, South Africa were humbled by Australia in the cricket, but that’s all well behind us now. New national pride is being sought through the Super 14 rugby and the progression of two South African teams through to the semi finals of that competition. I was fortunate enough to be at Newlands for the match between the Stormers and the Sharks last Saturday and I have to say that I was pretty impressed. The canapés were delightful and the spring rolls a joy. Also, there was free beer. We watched some of the rugby too, which was OK.

My dear little son has turned one year old. No-one is more surprised than us that he’s made it this far with our previous parenting experience; i.e. none. I guess it just goes to show how resilient the little fellow is. I will, of course, have some birthday photos up on the 6000 miles flickr site in the very near future. I’m in trouble at home for not having uploaded them already, which I guess is fair enough.

In addition to Alex’s birthday, my wife and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary (do the anniversary/birthday maths – it’s all completely legal), which came as shock to no-one – we were always meant to be.

But while there have been some variable sporting results and impressive bar snacks, baby’s birthdays, wedding anniversaries and partially-justifiable husband chastising, one thing is overshadowing my life at the moment. Sit, dear reader, for this is a biggie. This may foretell of a catastrophe of epic proportions.
My iPod has developed a rattle. This is, undeniably, a “bad thing”.
It is widely accepted that iPods should not rattle.

So far, there has been no further problem with the device, but I fear that it is only a matter of time.
And while it may be a couple of years old and well-used, I would hate to be prevented from enjoying the great sounds of Favourite Worst Nightmare by the Arctic Monkeys and Peace Breaker by the interestingly named local band, Springbok Nude Girls, (careful with the title of the page on that one if you’re at work), both of which I would highly recommend.

I showed my wife the iPod. I explained my concerns and then, with all else quiet, I shook it and demonstrated its terrifying death rattle. I explained that I would need a new, improved 60GB model with funky colour screen.
She seemed unimpressed.
“That’s easy to sort out,” she told me, lifting my forlorn hopes, “Don’t shake it.”

Readers, sometimes there is just no arguing with female logic.