Sunday, May 30, 2010

'Sunny bananas' from a soccer-befok South Africa

Even fashionable Parisian ladies will be wearing the colours of the South African flag this season! Check out these Christian Louboutins.

When the Fifa World Cup Soccer took place in Germany in 2006 it sparked off an unexpected reaction in the Germans. They had been too ashamed to fly their flag since the end of the Second World War, but when every visitor unashamedly waved their flag around the Germans decided to join them and every house and business sported the German flag in a display of unparalleled patriotism and national pride.

With just EIGHT days to go until the opening ceremony of the 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP the eyes of the world are on South Africa in a way that hasn't happened since 1994, and the South Africans have outdone themselves in the patriotism department. The country has began in short to resemble a giant flag. The South African flag, naturally, with its distinctive colourful, Y-front underpants design. In a word, we are soccer-befok, to use a South African expression (it's not as bad as it sounds, it just means obsessed with something, mad in other words)!

This burning patriotism is putting to shame any bad media reports about a lacklustre response from soccer fans, Fifa's thoroughly unprofessional handling of the ticket sales, and general malaise over our political situation. A friend of mine who has relocated to far-away Dubai expressed sadness that she could not be here for the World Cup and I sympathise as the madness from Matjiesfontein to Mapumalanga is completely infectious. That said, the flag vendors are also selling enormous Blue Bulls flags for the diehards.

The airports are looking gleamingly spick and span. The stadia are truly beautiful, masterpieces of architectural engineering. The Gautrain will be working, we are told. The teams have started arriving. The giant screens are going up at the fan parks. It is a reality. For once we are not going to let the woes of the world get us down: ash clouds, terror threats, accommodation fall-throughs, British Airways's strike, soccer hooligans, the Israelis behaving like hooligans,etc, etc, etc.

The main highway leading into host city Joburg is lined with the flags of the participating countries which flap energetically in the wind as well as Fifa banners (sleepy Cape Town is naturally a little behind and hasn't started putting up their decorations, I hear) and giant national flags adorn businesses and townhouse complexes alike. Flags are huge business at the moment,and of course there are those rear-view mirror covers which look like abbreviated underpants in the colours of the SA flag, "makarapas", vuvuzelas, beanies, scarves, jerseys and everything else soccer-related. It's all a bit mad and in your face. Schoolgirls wave giant England flags at the side of the road and shoppers wander the aisles with their Italia shirts on. Football Fridays have been in vogue for some months now and yellow and green Bafana Bafana shirts are everywhere.

The "entrepreneurs" at the side of the road who can sell you practically anything under normal circumstances have got positively aggressive in their marketing techniques. They are doing a roaring business so I don't understand the pressure tactics. I was returning from my grocery shopping the other day when I had to stop at the robots (that's traffic lights to those who don't speak Seffrican). About 20 vendors ran up to my car and assessed the number of flags and various soccer paraphenalia (or not) which I had invested in, in a vocal and very collaborative manner. I felt quite threatened, especially by the scary dude in the wheelchair with sunglasses. I have since done my bit, and adorned the bead and wire monkeys made by the Zimbabwean craftsmen who live in my treetops with various tiny flags which they wave at all the passersby.

It is interesting to see the ways in which people have interpreted the soccer theme. A nursery has put out an array of seedlings which were designed to flower in the colours of the South African flag. Another favourite is water features done out with the distinctive black and white shapes. My favourite shop, Ilovecupcakes, has placed iced cupcakes in the appropriate colours in a rectangle in their shop window. R450 for the lot - a bit steep for cupcakes, I think. Local is lekker store Woolies are selling "do it yourself" makarapas (the makarapas originated from mining hard hats which people wore to matches to stop being hit by flying bottles, and have now developed into artworks which had taken their place in soccer lore. I even saw an American fan wearing one in his own national colours). Beaded vuvuzelas of every nationality abound in the African craft markets. The French companies are on board and Total has enorrr-rrmous balls tethered outside each one of its garages (the French are delighted to be playing 60th (?)-placed Bafana Bafana). The guy that I call the "Mime of North Riding" has dressed up every day with a soccer theme, he is quite brilliant (I want to interview him, but how do you interview a mime?) Even the expensive designer shops have window displays, including 2A at Hyde Park Shopping which is selling distinctive "six-color", stacked Christian Louboutins platforms. Even the new Sex and the City movie had a reference to the World Cup and featured some of the gorgeous Argentinian players who will be heading here next week.

A South African publishing company has come out with a Hello South Africa Phrase Book which has common phrases and phonetic pronunciations in each of the 11 offficial languages. The national anthem is a scream, in itself. I can just see those British tourists greeting everyone: "Sunny bananas, do you know the way to So-wet-toe?"

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