I don’t have too much to add to this excellent interview with footballer Gordon Gilbert – “The Jock who became a Bok” – from The Scotsman:
Although he was brought up in Scotland, Gordon Gilbert was born in South Africa, where he now lives and works. For a few weeks every summer, he is back in Perthshire, telling people what it is like over there, and why it is special, but too many of them just don’t get it. Too many of them have no idea about the host nation of the 2010 World Cup finals.
Firstly, putting the record straight for the “experts” on the country who have never even been here (one of my pet hates):
“People have the wrong impression of South Africa,” he says. “People who have never been there think that there are elephants roaming about the streets and monkeys climbing the trees in your garden. Once you’ve been there, you realise how far that is from the truth. You see how beautiful it is, how the crime and all the negative stuff is blown out of proportion. It’s certainly not a third-world country in my eyes.”
“I don’t know if you’ve heard of these vuvuzelas, horns that are constantly being blown during the match. My stepdad, who has watched football all his days, came over to watch me in the Nedbank Cup final, and he said he’d never experienced anything like it.
The noise is unbelievable. They are up dancing, playing the drums, getting very emotional about the outcome. For the players, it is just brilliant.”
And then, the really serious stuff – how will this tournament help unite this historically and culturally divided nation?
Whether the finals will help football to bridge the racial divide is another matter. Gilbert is one of few white players in South African football. Another is Matthew Booth, who plays for the national team. There will be plenty talk these next few weeks of the Rainbow Nation, of the game’s potential to unite black and white, just as there was after the 1995 Rugby World Cup – when Mandela famously donned the Springbok jersey – but is it realistic?
“It’s difficult for me to think that, just because we’ve got the World Cup finals, everybody is going to mix overnight. Yes, they are now living and working together in the same country, but the cultures are very different. If you go to a rugby game, the guys are very reserved. They’re not blowing horns like they do in football. Will there be more whites in football because of this? I don’t know. What I do know is that South African football will be the stronger for it. People are not going to look down on it anymore.
Of course, this interview, published on Sunday, was almost certainly done before the all South African Super14 final between the Bulls and the Stormers. Because that was packed full of vuvuzelas, start to finish. And gave us these amazing photos.
Maybe Gordon might want to revise his thoughts on that one…
Many thanks to Altus Momberg for the heads up.