A triumph for all of us
BAFANA Bafana left their own party this week – something many of us had feared might happen. They made history in the process, by becoming the first host nation to drop out in the first round of the World Cup. But they also won hearts.
Coming up against a vastly superior team – on paper – they beat them comprehensively and, for a moment, let a nation hope that the near-impossible was about to take place and that they could score enough goals to proceed to the next round of the competition.
They did themselves and their country no dis- grace with the way they played. The same could not be said for their much-vaunted opponents, France – or even the reigning world champions, Italy, on Thursday – when they were ignominiously dumped from the tournament.
But the true victory has not been Bafana’s redemption of their honour, but rather in the fibre of a nation that soon overcame its disappointment and got on with revelling in the special privilege of hosting the world.
It’s a trait that will not surprise South Africans, but has astounded international observers – the selfsame people who could do nothing but naysay our abilities as we prepared to host this event.
This week, we showed the quintessential African generosity of spirit and hospitality, even though our team is no longer competing. In other countries, especially in the northern hemisphere, one of two things happens: in a worst-case scenario, the people riot; in the best case, the country switches off and loses all interest.
We bucked that trend. But, what’s more, people overseas are trying their utmost to come here because of the positive images that are being beamed into their living rooms every day.
They’re not coming only to watch the games, they’re coming to soak up the atmosphere; to say, in Fifa’s catchphrase, “I was there”.
It’s a profound turnaround from even a fortnight ago. And the best thing is, we’ve still got another two weeks of this spectacle to enjoy with our newfound friends from around the world.