Monday 7th of June 2010, 19.27h
On the 15th of May 2004, the day South Africa won the right to stage the 2010 Football World Cup, the countdown read 2,219 days. Today, as you drive into the centre of Cape Town the big digital clock reads 4 days! The biggest football tournament on our planet is here, on the African continent for the first time ever and as you can imagine the atmosphere is electrifying. Everywhere you look you see flags of the 32 nations that will take part in this years World Cup. The newspapers, the radio, the television, the children at the schools, my fellow colleagues at work, just about everybody is talking about the World Cup.
It is amazing that the Rainbow nation are hosting the 2010 World Cup considering the circumstances the country found itself in not so long ago. From 1964 – 1992 South Africa was banned from all official sport competitions due to their Apartheid ruling, meaning it has only been 18 years since South Africa have been allowed to take part in any official sport competitions. I am sure that 18 years ago not one South African person would have believed that his/her country would get to host a football World Cup in 2010. As you can imagine, everybody is hysterical that the World Cup is here in Africa, with Kick-Off in 4 days time.
There is no doubt that this is going to be a stern test for South Africa, on the pitch as well as off it. They have already jumped the first hurdle by having everything ready in time for the World Cup to commence (stadiums, public transport and other necessary infrastructure) when there were doubts as to whether it would all be ready in time for the World Cup to start. A lot has also been said about crime and the safety of the people in South Africa during the World Cup. The world is watching and this tournament is a great way for South Africa and it’s people to show what they are really like and in the process prove their critics wrong.
The South African government have spent millions of pounds on ensuring the stadiums are ready and the infrastructure is in place on time for the World Cup to run smoothly. An event of this magnitude can do wonders to an economy of a country, as was so evident in 1992 with the Olympics in Barcelona. However, if the headlines during the World Cup are about shootings, stabbings and rape, which is a concern out here, it could do even more damage to the reputation of this wonderful country.
There is already a big debate as to why the South African government have decided to spend so much money building state of the art football stadiums when they could have invested the money on the South African citizens that live in the Townships in what I can only say are awful conditions. The other day we drove past one of the Townships on the outskirts of Cape Town and from a distance I witnessed boys and women doing their necessities on the grass in a public area behind their shack houses, which makes me assume that they do not have a toilet to be able to do it in their own house. As soon as I saw this and realised what I was seeing it sent shivers down my spine. The debate as to how the World Cup can help these people in the long run is very heated and only time will tell as to whether it was a good decision to spend so much money on football stadiums. There is a huge responsibility on this World Cup to be a success, for the future of this country and its continent.
On the pitch, it will take a miracle for South Africa to win the World Cup. Having spoken to a lot of people out here regarding expectations, most people will be delighted if they manage to get past the group stage, if they don’t, they will be the first host nation in the history of the World Cup not get to the knock out stages! On Friday I will be at the Fan Zone where they will be showing the first match on a big screen with 27,000 other fans cheering on Bafana Bafana (what they call their soccer team out here) hoping they can do one over the Mexicans.🙂
For me, the World Cup that starts on Friday will be my third World Cup since I have been in South Africa. All the schools we are coaching are coming to the end of their school year (schools will be closed during the World Cup as it is their winter season) and thus have set up a World Cup competition involving the entire school. I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to organise two World Cups at two different schools, Garden Village, which was today and St John’s, which was this past Friday. A few weeks ago each class were designated a country and together with their teachers they have been learning about the history and traditions of their assigned countries. On the day of the World Cup, all the children had to come to school in the colours of their country and in the morning of the World Cup each class had to do a presentation they had rehearsed over the past few weeks to the rest of the school. The presentations consisted in lots of dancing and singing, African style. After the presentations the classes and countries played a match against each other with the entire school on the sidelines cheering on the boys and girls and blowing their Vuvuzelas, it made for a truly eventful and special two days.
This past weekend I also managed to go to the Akon concert with the other volunteers in the house. Akon calls himself the Son of Africa so the concert was themed on Africa and of course the World Cup. Akon really did put on a great show and it was probably the best concert I have ever been to.
A couple of days ago I got another pleasant surprise. Patricia a fellow volunteer from Switzerland, also living in the volunteer house, managed to get a couple of tickets to the Spain – Switzerland game in Durban on the 16th of June. This means that next week I will be doing a little bit of traveling around South Africa, going to Durban on a road trip stopping at various places like Port Elizabeth on the way up and then I will be flying back to Cape Town the day after the Spain game as I have to be here in Cape Town in time for the England – Algeria game which is the other game I will be going to at this World Cup. Next week will be hectic and I am hoping truly memorable, just like the past 4 and a half weeks.
South Africa, the world is at your feet for the next 5 weeks, please do not let your people down.