Can-do SA clears Cup hur­dle – now for the big­ger prob­lems

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES -

THE EXIT of Bafana Bafana from the Soc­cer World Cup comes as a wel­come re­lief.

It at least means that those of us who kept stack­ing up stub­bor n hopes against good sense can swal­low our dis­ap­point­ment and just en­joy the re­main­ing games, with­out the threat of car­diac ar­rest ev­ery time a South African player fum­bles a ball in the penalty area.

No doubt the naysay­ers are de­lighted, too.

They will point to Bafana’s elim­i­na­tion – the first time that the host nation has not pro­gressed past the first round, they will re­mind us with a chor­tle – as fur­ther vin­di­ca­tion of their per­verse but fer­vently held be­lief that South Africa did not de­serve to host the tour­na­ment.

It should, how­ever, con­found these Cas­san­dras that Bafana’s short-lived but hon­ourable par­tic­i­pa­tion has de­liv­ered an ar­ray of pos­i­tive out­comes, none of which has much to do with sim­plis­tic win­lose-draw sport­ing equa­tions.

An ob­vi­ous ben­e­fit has been an im­prove­ment in the na­tional mood that goes be­yond the some­times corny at­tempts by a light­weight ANC lead­er­ship to em­u­late Nel­son Man­dela’s In­vic­tus tri­umph at the 1995 rugby World Cup.

The soc­cer World Cup has been a re­minder that de­spite the sep­a­rate lives we may nor­mally lead, we have a shared destiny. It has been a re­minder also that a nation’s met­tle is melded as much by shared ad­ver­sity as it is by tri­umph.

Nei­ther is the fail­ure of the “Madiba magic”’ this time around to be rued.

It is all very well for chil­dren to in­dulge in mag­i­cal think­ing, to imag­ine that su­per­sti­tious rit­ual can keep at bay the malev­o­lent and usher in the good.

But by the age of 16, it is about time the teenaged New South Africa got to grips with the fact that magic is no sub­sti­tute for the hard, unglam­orous graft of plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion. Mer­lin does not ex­ist and while Madiba does, he can­not, at close to 92, be ex­pected to keep hav­ing to puff air into the flat tyre of the nation’s re­solve be­cause its own­ers can’t be both­ered to carry out a ba­sic main­te­nance rou­tine.

Bafana’s blessed de­par­ture gives South Africa a chance to dis­play ma­tu­rity in an­other way, by not al­ways ex­pect­ing to be the cen­tre of at­trac­tion.

Con­trary to the pre­dic­tions of the naysay­ers, the pub­lic’s emo­tional in­volve­ment with the cup will not end be­cause the na­tional team is no longer on show.

Al­most ev­ery­one has a sec­ond- choice team to which they will trans­fer al­le­giance.

Now dis­abused of the con­ceit that we were des­tined to be the star turn in our per­sonal show, South Africans can get on with what the World Cup is re­ally about – show­cas­ing the coun­try as a premier tourist and in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tion.

Al­though one wouldn’t think it from the hype, this event was al­ways more about dis­play­ing hos­pi­tal­ity and the coun­try’s eco­nomic po­ten­tial than it was about mak­ing it through to the top-16 knock­out round.

For the vis­i­tors it is about plea­sure, for South Africa it is about busi­ness.

Ja­cob Zuma promised that his pres­i­dency would be char­ac­terised not by ide­ol­ogy, but by a hard­headed fo­cus on mea­sur­able re­sults. While this mostly has not hap­pened, the World Cup is an ex­cep­tion.

The in­fra­struc­ture has been cre­ated and, es­pe­cially as re­gards trans­port and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, will de­liver in­cal­cu­la­ble con­tin­u­ing ben­e­fits.

If the hard-spend­ing for­eign fans can be co­cooned from crim­i­nal may­hem for an­other cou­ple of weeks, ir­re­spec­tive of who lifts the tro­phy, South Africa will be the real win­ner.

The next task will be to carry the can-do at­ti­tude of the World Cup prepa­ra­tions into ar­eas like job cre­ation, land dis­tri­bu­tion, and the erad­i­ca­tion of poverty and dis­ease.

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