Fly the flag of re­spect

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

SOUTH Africa went foot­ball mad this week­end with fans of all colours and na­tion­ali- ties gath­er­ing in their thou­sands at sta­di­ums, fan­parks, bars and friends’ homes to get the World Cup 2010 tour­na­ment off to a bril­liant, and earpierc­ing start.

From Polok­wane to Worces­ter, peo­ple were over­flow­ing with the and our streets have been a sea of green and gold and abuzz with the con­stant din of vu­vuze­las. The groundswell of pa­tri­o­tism in our coun­try has been as­ton­ish­ing, with South Africans from all walks of life get­ting be­hind our na­tional team Bafana Bafana.

This is ad­mirable. How­ever we would do well to re­mem­ber that our many vis­i­tors from the other coun­tries par­tic­i­pat­ing in the tour­na­ment have sim­i­lar feel­ings of loy­alty to their na­tional teams and coun­tries.

We should all re­spect their right to this, and we must en­sure that these vis­i­tors feel wel­come to ex- press their af­fil­i­a­tions and dis­play their na­tional colours with the same pride dis­played by South African foot­ball fans.

While there ex­ists a friendly (and some­times not- so-friendly) ri­valry among South Africans who sup­port op­pos­ing teams, they will al­ways put aside their dif­fer­ences and unite in their sup­port of the nation- al sides, as we have seen in re­cent days and weeks.

South African fans would do well to re­mem­ber, and be aware, that pa­tri­o­tism does not trans­late into na­tional chau­vin­ism. The many flags of dif­fer- ent na­tions that are flut­ter­ing in bars, malls and walk­ways are re­minders that this tour­na­ment is, by def­i­ni­tion, an in­ter­na­tional event.

South Africans are of­ten in­clined to be rather parochial. But the vis­i­tors who are in our city and our coun­try to sup­port their sides should not be sub­jected to any­thing but the kind­est, gen­tlest re- min­der of ri­val­ries, and should al­ways be treated as we would any other guests, at any other event, and at any other time of the year.

We hope one of the spinoffs of this great tour­na­ment will be that more South Africans learn to iden­tify be­yond our bor­ders with our con­ti­nent and in­deed the wider world.

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