Thursday, June 10, 2010


The picture says it all!

I have not felt the electric current coursing through South Africa's veins so strongly since I was a junior sub working at the Star newspaper in 1994 when, suddenly, we were the news and the whole newsroom came alive.

The World Cup is one day away and the party is only just beginning. Cape Town has finally woken up and lit up Adderley Street with soccer lights, Durban and Port Elizabeth are going crazy and Nelspruit is completely itself. Not to mention all the other towns, dorpies, farms and countryside where games are and are not being played.

The country is awake with the sound of the vuvuzela, our secret weapon designed to strike terror into the hearts of our opponents and awaken love in the hearts of our friends. All the school children are on holiday and adding to the "vuvu" cacophony which sounds at odd hours of the day and night.

I am still nursing my "vuvuzela mouth wounds" after yesterday's amazing Bafana Bafana bus tour through Sandton. The country turned out to support their team and Sandton was estimated to hold around 500 000 fans in one city block alone. The aerial view must have been astounding. The media bus set off first from the Grayston Drive Southern Sun hotel which is where the team is staying. Foreign and local press alike clambered onto the roof for the best view of a sea of flag waving, diski dancing, whistling, screaming, cheering happy and patriotic fans who had been gathering since 10 that morning. The streets were choked with cars, sitting on their horns in solidarity, and people walking, walking, walking. A bank of vuvuzelas had formed outside the hotel and the crowd grew restless, wanting a glimpse of their heroes. The only problem was that there was no space left open for the police escort and three buses (media, team and local celebs) which was to drive through. A Castle sponsored Combi full of crowd whippers up was accompanying us, together with a whole lot of cyclists. What a circus! I blew away at my vuvu, a newly acquired skill, and started to produce the right kinds of sounds. The crowd responded and blew back at full throttle. My mouth started to feel like it had been caught in the pool cleaner but no matter, I blew on.

The police had to walk in front and literally part the crowds inch by screaming inch. The media on the roof had the bird's eye view: South Africa in unison as it has not been since 1994. Old and young, all colours, all political affiliations, soccer or rugby supporters, Chiefs or Pirates, construction workers who downed tools for their lunch break, stockbrokers who peered out of their rooftop offices, gogos, madalas, babies till on the breast, school kids, tourists, fans, visitors, Sandtonians, Capetownians, all of them going absolutely Bafanas. The music was pumping out and streetfuls of people were dancing. "Make the circle beeger, make the circle beeger!"

Coach Carlos Parreira waved merrily at the crowd in the bus behind us, blowing kisses. The team beamed and waved. The vuvuzelas sounded out, triggering the response in the crowd. The police took pictures of each other, presumably to Facebook later. The whole of Mexico had just arrived at OR Tambo, we were told, but only saw one lorn sombrero in the crowd. One cheeky Brit lad had sneaked into the parade with his father and held up a banner reading: "ME AND ME DAD". Another had a banner saying: No, I am not David Beckham, so please stop asking." A cute fellow in a South African flag jumpsuit did a striptease in front of the bus, revealing his soccer shirt below.

We are all so happy that Madiba has decided to join us for a few precious minutes at the opening ceremony tomorrow. With support like this and the ole Madiba magic behind them Bafana Bafana can go to their game tomorrow against Mexico with the hopes and dreams of the country backing them.

You see, it's not just about soccer. It's about two years of economic misery, it's about the disillusionment of our political situation. It's about needing something to believe in, something to make us happy again, something to unite us, something to make us believe in the rainbow nation again. The event was organised by Primedia who wanted originally to confine it to the hotel but something spoke out and said bring it to the people. The World Cup is going to be about everyone, not just all the famous people who are coming. It's not about whether you have tickets to the games, whether you have accreditation, whether you are a bigwig or not. It's about everyone. The mood and spirit will infect everyone, it will heal everyone. It just proved once again that when it comes to the crunch South Africans pull together as one, forgetting all about colour, divisions, hatred. It's what makes us such a unique, special bunch of people. We are AMAZING!

PS: Let's hope my mouth feels better so I can blow my vuvuzela some more tomorrow. Hands up everyone who is going to the opening concert at Orlando Stadium today!

Standing room only!

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