Four year ago – was it seriously FOUR YEARS AGO? – I invited a bunch of friends over to watch the Opening Ceremony and the first game of the 2010 World Cup on my giant television. There was a lot of pressure on South Africa to perform – and not necessarily in the football. In the run up to the tournament, plenty of naysayers and critics had predicted that we couldn’t pull it off. But everything was Ayoba. It was all Waka Waka and Feel it! It’s here!
On the whole, we did a beautiful job. There were no major disruptions, no protests, no deaths during the building of stadiums and no terror attacks. Eishkom managed to deliver electricity to all stadiums and fan parks, schools were closed so that roads could flow smoothly, and we papered over the cracks of potholes and squatter camps (although one memorable piece of graffiti sprang up in Melville, where some giant, yellow, plastic road dividers surrounded a large hole in the road, on which some very clever person had written, Fix it! They’re here!). We even managed to placate dissenting voices and protests by traders who were moved from their regular places to make way for FIFA-approved vendors.
There was a sense of unity amongst everyone in the country – amongst South Africans, as well as her legal and illegal visitors – which felt genuine. We drove around with mini-flags attached to our cars and entrepreneurial robo-shop vendors manipulated us into buying flags to cover out side mirrors. When South Africa left the tournament quite unceremoniously, we all rooted for Ghana. That was Africa’s World Cup, and despite all the potential wrongs, we pulled off a fantastic one.
Tonight, I’m huddled up on my couch alone, hot water bottle and blanket keeping me warm, because Eishkom has asked me (and the rest of us) to be cautious with our electricity usage. They tweeted a thank you to us all earlier. It didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy – I’ve driven past those massive corporate buildings with all their lights on all night who are granted huge rebates.
Anyway, I watched the opening ceremony in São Paulo, and despite the critical twitter feed, I thought it was quite beautiful. I loved the costumes – especially those for the first section which depicted Brazil’s natural elements (water, rain forest, flowers). I was entertained by the giant traditional instruments, traditional dances and general carnival atmosphere. What I wasn’t impressed with was the official song, “performed” by Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and some other woman whose name seems to escape everyone. Pitbull (seriously, what kind of a name is that!) donned a Brazil football shirt, and the women wore some bastardised version of a leotard/football shirt which exposed their figures, with glittery stockings and stiletto ankle boots. Not my cup of tea at all. Nor was their pseudo-sexy dancing. The fact that the sound was appalling on the television was probably a godsend, because the song is dreadful.
I’m not a sports fan – I tend to “like” my friend Robin’s status updates on the days of major sporting events which say things like “Somebody played somebody else today and one of them won”. 🙂 But I do think I will watch a lot of this World Cup. I know I should be exercising my arm chair activism again and boycotting it though. I didn’t watch a stitch of the Winter Olympics in support of my gay family and friends – Putin’s disgusting approach to homosexuals appalled me too much (although I know that I was a lonely voice and most of my gay family and friends watched!). Maybe it was too easy anyway – I don’t have any affinity for skiing or ice hockey or whatever they play there.
But football is different. While I find it quite silly when South Africans are die-hard supporters of Man United or Liverpool or Barcelona, having never lived in or even been to those cities, and while I’m a t-shirt-owning Kaiser Chiefs fan who doesn’t really follow their progress much, something about the game reminds me of days gone by when I used to watch Celtic get hammered by Rangers with my first serious boyfriend, and when a bunch of us went to watch Manchester United play Arsenal at Orlando Stadium (and I knitted us red beanies and scarves) and when Friday nights were spent at 7-a-side Indoor soccer in Florida and much beer was consumed while we watched someone’s team and got riled up about it. My competitive side, which is generally in check, seems to come out once I have chosen a team to support, and then I can do the loud-mouthed yobo hooligan behaviour along with the best of them. I also have warm memories of 2010 – dressing up in orange to support Holland, eating sushi to support Japan and loving some rather gorgeous players on the Spanish team.
So, even though I know that FIFA is the most corrupt organisation on the planet, and I know that there have been massive protests in Brazil which have been shut out from the rest of the world by the media, and I know that poor people in Brazil deserve the billions of dollars that have been thrown at the World Cup to be spent on improving their lives instead of actually damaging them, I just can’t help but get excited about the 2014 Brazil World Cup. I will find a team to root for (not my home nation, because they failed to qualify, but I’m pretty sure my team is an African one – Ghana again, or Cameroon or Nigeria. I generally back the underdog.
Oh dear! Brazil have just scored the first goal of the tournament, and it’s an own goal! Maybe they’re making it too easy for me to pick a team – although Croatia doesn’t really make me feel anything. I think it’s time for me to pay attention to the other screen. May the odds be ever in your favour, World Cup viewers.