There are a lot of South Africans hopping up and down ahead of our World Cup, just 56 days away.
There are those who are hopping and down – it’s called toyi-toying – in our streets while they kick over refuse bins and make a right mess of the cities in their demand for a better wage deal for municipal workers. Perfectly understandable. It is an accepted fact that disgruntled workers will go on strike shortly before a major sports event in their country because it gives them big, fat leverage to extort a better deal from their panicky employers. Fine.
Then there are the rest of us (well, most of the rest of us) who are jumping up and down in pure and unadulterated excitement that the World Cup, yes, THE World Cup will be a-happening in our country, South Africa, in just a few weeks time. Sheez. Messi, Kaka, Rooney, Torres… all here, on our beautiful doorstep. Put out the biggest “Welcome” mat you can find. Oh, and Steven Pienaar, of course. And let’s hope we’ll be reading more about the level-headed Everton and Bafana star than that Benni McCarthy, who doesn’t seem to have a head at all.
Then there are some who are jumping up and down and pointing an accusative finger at Fifa and screaming “Why aren’t my rooms full?!”
OK. This is where it gets a bit awkward. And forgive me for being blunt. I’ve been saying this for some time. Football fans are not generally white-collar workers, professionals, lawyers, doctors and financiers with bulging wallets. As is the case here in South Africa, soccer fans are working class, putting aside the money earned in the factories, mines and general industria to watch their team on a Saturday. They live for the weekend, for the game, for the victory for their local team.
Putting aside enough cash for the match ticket and a few drinks on a Saturday is one thing. Saving for a long-haul flight (return) to a distant country in the southern hemisphere plus enough for food, accommodation and a truckload of alcohol is quite another.
My point is… the only people who can afford, especially given the global economic crisis, to swan around South Africa for a month (or even part thereof) and pay the inflated prices being asked are people in relatively high-paid jobs. This is not your average football fan. The vast majority which eats, breathes, lives the round-ball game. Hence the less-than-manic demand for World Cup 2010 ticket packages from overseas.
Now, please pay attention. This is not all doom and gloom. Why? Because, despite what many have been hoping, South Africa and its bed-and-breakfast owners, its restaurateurs and it’s tourism operators were not given a get-rich-quick scheme (as in one month) by Fifa.
Many will benefit to some degree. But World Cup 2010 was always going to offer just three things: 1) A glorious celebration by the world, especially South Africa, of the most beautiful game 2) an unparalleled opportunity for South Africa to market our sumptuous country to the billions watching the soccer on television back home, and 3) some employment, but not nearly enough, for the huge number of unemployed here in South Africa.
End of story. Finish en klaar. But, from where I sit, something very wonderful has come out of the fact that our foreign footy fans largely haven’t been able to afford to come to check out South Africa’s sights (and stay in our guesthouses and hotels, eat our food, drink our pubs dry and make big moves on our gorgeous women).
And that wonderful thing is that this has forced the match ticket prices down to a point where our LOCAL soccer fans can afford to buy them. How cool is that? South Africans, ordinary, working-class South Africans, can now fill up our breathtakingly beautiful new stadiums and be part of the mega-celebration. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them to experience a World Cup at first hand.
Because, likewise, THEY cannot afford to just jump on a plane and go to watch a World Cup finals elsewhere in the world. And what good energy they will bring to the party! Blow those vuvus, guys! And show the world how South Africans can have a bloody good time at a football match without getting drunk to the point at which abusing your opposing fans and ripping up seats to throw at them becomes more entertaining than the match itself.
No, I’m loving how our World Cup is panning out. Fewer English drunks to contrive pathetic charges at German and Argentinian fans in our city centres. Fewer Italian ultras to whip up ugly scenes on the terraces. Were I a South African policeman, I’d be well chuffed. The security chiefs must be rubbing their hands in glee.
This 2010 World Cup is working out to be exactly how I want it to be. The People’s World Cup. South Africa’s World Cup. A massive celebration of the beautiful game by the people who spend their hard-earned wages week in and week out on following their club, be it Kaizer Chiefs or some hardy bunch giving their all on a dusty field somewhere in the sticks.
Take it, my fellow South Africans, and turn this World Cup into one phenomenal celebration of the best of humanity. One big, happy and peaceful party. Show the world how we South Africans truly are. Because many among the foreign media have chosen to distort the picture to make out that we are a nation almost entirely made up of white AWB fanatics or Julius Malema acolytes.
And, as we know, these extremes couldn’t be further from our truth. Wear the yellow, wave the Rainbow flag, let your blood run green, blow those vuvus as loud as you can and celebrate the World Cup – and your South Africanness. As only we South Africans can. And let’s put on such a magnificent spectacle that those watching all over the world will be left in no doubt that our beloved country is worth spending their money on. Yes, the full benefits of a peaceful and joyous World Cup will only be felt in the years to come. Over to you!