A tri­umph for all of us

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

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.

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