Archive | June, 2010

The Bothersome Business of the Boateng Brothers

23 Jun



Kevin-Prince Boateng

Jerome Boateng

Today Ghana will face Germany in what looks to be the best chance that an African team has of making it out of the group stages. This match up is more than just a clash of one of the strongest European sides with one of the strongest African sides; it is also likely to be a clash of brothers. Jerome Boateng and Kevin-Prince Boateng are half-brothers who are of Ghanaian descent but were born and raised in Germany. The game on the 23rd will see the brothers on opposite ends of the pitch, as Jerome will be playing for Germany while Kevin-Prince will be playing for Ghana. The battle of the Boateng brothers has been highly anticipated and has received a fair amount of press. I would like to critically examine one article that was printed on Spiegel Online, a German news source, titled “The Boateng Brothers’ World Cup Duel” from 4/16/2010. The article basically tries to show how based on Kevin-Prince Boateng’s personality he would be better suited playing for Ghana. There is a sharp contrast between the half-brothers, Jerome is rational while Kevin-Prince is irrational, Jerome is a hard worker while Kevin-Prince is a hothead, and Jerome is a team player while Kevin-Prince is selfish. After reading this article I highly doubt that Germans felt they got the lesser of the two Boatengs. 


 Jerome Boateng:

 “Jerome Boateng has four tattoos… He likes to listen to music from Ghana, because it sounds cheerful…”

Kevin-Prince Boateng:

“Kevin-Prince Boateng has 13 tattoos… he prefers music by German rapper Bushido, whose songs are about whores and anal sex.”

“Like Jerome, Kevin-Prince was born in Berlin. Most of what he knows about Ghana, his father’s country, comes from stories he has heard. Nevertheless, he says: ‘I’m proud to be an African.’”

Comment: in the opening lines of the article the stark contrast between Jerome and Kevin-Prince is clear. Based on the number of tattoos and the music tastes of the brothers, it can be ascertained that one is “good” and one is “evil”, its as simple as black and white. Does that make Jerome white? Perhaps that is what the purpose of this article is, to show that even though Jerome Boateng is black, he is a “good” black and possesses all of the desirable characteristics of a white person, especially when compared with his brother.

Choices to make

 The author met up with both players to talk with them about how they ended up choosing to play for the country that they did.

Kevin-Prince Boateng:

“Kevin-Prince walks through the lobby of the Hilton Hotel in Southampton, wearing baggy jeans and clunky sneakers. Kevin-Prince Boateng had played 41 times for the German Football Association’s junior teams. In 2006, a jury selected him as the most promising new player of the year. Kevin-Prince looks around the lobby, searching for his manager. The two men sit down in armchairs. Kevin-Prince pulls his mobile phone from his jacket pocket and stares absent-mindedly at the screen. His manager says: ‘If Ghana wins the World Cup, the whole continent will be on fire. And Kevin will be a star.’ That’s the plan.”

Jerome Boateng:

“He smells of cologne, but not overpoweringly, and he has a diamond stud in each ear. He orders an arugula salad and a bottle of mineral water. He speaks quietly and seems almost shy. ‘I never thought of playing for Ghana,’ he says. ‘it doesn’t make any sense. Germany is my home. I like the people here, and the mentality.’”

Comment: The details that the author chooses to include say a lot. Kevin-Prince is wearing baggy jeans and stares absent-mindedly at his phone. Jerome on the other hand, smells of cologne, but not overpoweringly, he is sophisticated. He orders a salad and mineral water and speaks softly, he’s delicate, nothing to be afraid of. Kevin-Prince’s manager makes it quite simple, he is playing for Ghana but interested in his own success first. Jerome on the other hand remains loyal to Germany because he likes the people and the mentality. Hopefully after reading this article those people with their mentalities will like him.

Different personalities and playing styles

 “The half-brothers’ different personalites are reflected in their playing styles. Jerome is a disciplined defender, keeping track of things and remaining calm when on the ball. Kevin-Prince can control and finish, but his actions are more physical, almost angry. Last year he kicked a player on the opposing team in the temple.” (Kevin-Prince also injured one of Germany’s star players Michael Ballack just weeks before the start of the World Cup, an injury that dashed Ballack’s hopes of playing this time around.)

Kevin-Prince Boateng:

“Kevin-Prince, Jerome’s half-brother, visited often when they were growing up. ‘Kevin was Jerome’s idol,’ says Martina Boateng [Jerome’s mother]. She rolls her eyes, as if it were something she doesn’t like to think about. ‘I really like Kevin. He’s funny, a clown. He loves to make people laugh. But he can’t accept a subordinate role, he has a big mouth and he doesn’t obey the rules. That always comes through.” When the boys were younger, she feared that Kevin would be a bad influence on her son.”

“Martina Boateng puts on her coat. She prefers not to comment on Kevin-Prince’s decision to play for Ghana. All she says is: ‘Kevin comes from Wedding. I admire him for having fought his way out of there. Wedding is a poor Berlin neighborhood where foreigners make up a third of the residents. The unemployment rate is above 15 percent, 15,000 crimes are recorded every year, and the number of welfare recipients is high.”

Jerome Boateng:

“For a time, Jerome adopted a sort of affected immigrant dialect, speaking in rudimentary sentences without articles. But that was the extent of his rebelliousness. Today Jerome is the epitome of the modern professional athlete. He doesn’t drink and he doesn’t smoke.”

Comment: Jerome defends, Kevin-Prince attacks. Jerome defends his right to be a professional athlete and to be chosen for Germany’s World Cup squad by looking after his image and staying “clean”. Kevin-Prince attacks, he’s after glory one way or another, and his tactics may be deemed offensive in more ways than one. Kevin-Prince’s rags to riches story is hardly new in the football world and neither is the assumption that growing up in a rough neighborhood translates into a rough style of play. I’m sure that it took a great deal of confidence to convince himself that he was talented enough to play professionally, to escape the “ghetto”. I’m sure there were plenty of people who told him it would never happen, that he was a fool to believe such things, and I bet there were times when he believed them. If Kevin-Prince comes off as over-confident, maybe it’s because he had to be. If he can’t accept a subordinate role in football maybe it’s because he grew up in a subordinate role in society and now that he’s had a taste of what its like to live as something other than a second class citizen, he’s reluctant to let himself slip into the backseat in case the driver decides to make a U-turn back towards Wedding. But, this aggressive side should fit in perfect on the Ghanaian squad, right? After all, they’re African, right? I’m surprised they’ve even found time to put together a football squad, there’s a war going on there, right? The article implies that Jerome’s discipline and ability to keep track of things and remain calm when on the ball is German whereas Kevin-Prince is physical, almost angry, which is clearly African.

Boateng men

 The article goes on to interview Kevin-Prince’s brother George and Prince Boateng, the father of the Boateng brothers.

“George Boateng is Kevin-Prince’s older brother and Jerome’s other half-brother. He was the terror of the streets as a teenager. ‘I got into a lot of trouble. Fights, probation. I had a short fuse, and I was a bad role model for Kevin. He can thank me for his reputation.’”

“He prefers to talk about Jerome, his half-brother. ‘Jerome is my haven. Everyone calms down when he walks into the room. Kevin is ambitious. Jerome is a perfectionist. He lives for success.’ George is Jerome’s harshest critic and his biggest fan. They speak on the telephone every day, discussing the last training session and analyzing moves ‘Jerome is like a sponge. He absorbs everything.’”

“Prince Boateng travels to Ghana twice a year. The African side of Jerome and Kevin-Prince, he says, is their suppleness, their looseness. ‘Both of them are great dancers.’ And what’s German about them? He thinks for a moment. ‘Jerome is punctual and reliable, which is something you can’t really say about Kevin.”

“He says he lost contact with Kevin-Prince when his son went to England three years ago. Kevin-Prince spent a lot of time in nightclubs and going to parties. He bought three cars on a single day, a Lamborghini, a Hummer and a Cadillac Oldtimer. He also bought a new wardrobe: 160 pairs of shoes, 200 hats and 20 leather jackets.”

Comment: This section of the article feels like a search for the source of Kevin-Prince’s faults. Is it his brother George who made him this way? Is it his strained relationship with his father? It may very well have been both of those things on top of a million others but I think it is a bit ridiculous that the article has portrayed him in such a manner that by the time the reader gets this far into the article he/she has begun to ask themselves, what made him that way? What went wrong in this boy’s life? The explanation offered is that the prominent male figure in Kevin-Prince’s life when he was growing up was his brother George who admits that he was a bad role-model, a delinquent even. Then the article exposes Kevin-Prince’s shopping list, perhaps there are some clues there. Personally, I find Kevin-Prince’s wasteful spending just that, wasteful, but I respect the fact that he has every right to spend the money he earns in any way he sees fit. If Jerome is a sponge then what does that make Kevin-Prince? One of those steel wool things? Because he seems to rub everyone the wrong way.

A score to settle with Germany?

 “Before the U21 European championship in Sweden, the team went to a training camp on Tegernsee, a lake near Munich. One player still had to be eliminated. The decision was up to the team council. One of the players who was there, but doesn’t want to be identified, says: ‘Kevin was picked because he had been late for meetings several times. The idea was: someone who’s that unreliable jeopardizes the entire project. If you want to win the title, you can’t have anyone stepping out of line. Besides, he was injured.’” 

“It seems that one of the reasons Kevin-Prince Boateng decided to play for Ghana’s national team was because he still has a score to settle with Germany, even if he denies it. Jerome Boateng is playing for Germany, because it seems logical to him. In his case, reason is the motivating factor.”

“Matthias Sammer, the sports director of the German Football Association, puts it this way: ‘A lack of discipline and egotism can be discerned in Kevin-Prince. When it comes to his athletic and mental constitution, Jerome is the stronger player.’ In other words one brother is a good fit for Germany, while the other is not.”

Comment: The author cleverly saves the details about Kevin-Prince being cut from the U21 national team until the very end. The implication is that Kevin-Prince wouldn’t have made the German national team anyways. In this way, Germany gets the last word in. Kevin-Prince isn’t playing for Germany because he is “proud to be an African”, he’s playing for Germany because he’s already been cut from one of their national teams and isn’t eager for it to happen again. It becomes clear, Germany has snapped up the better of the Boateng brothers. Tonight’s match will be the ultimate test. I’ll be supporting you Kevin-Prince, if you’ve got scores to settle then this is your chance, a win for Ghana should silence your critics.



More than just a game: The Makana Football Association on Robben Island

22 Jun

Goal posts on Robben Island


The story of the Makana Football Association has been brought to light in recent years during the buildup to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. It provides a great deal of insight into the historical importance of football in South African society. The formation of the Makana Football Association on Robben Island has been labeled as a “triumph of the human spirit” and a beacon of hope during the darkest days of apartheid in South Africa. Nelson Mandela or Madiba, as he is known by South Africans, is by far Robben Island’s most well known political prisoner. However, this is not his story. This is the story of the collective struggle of Robben Island’s prisoners to retain their humanity through something as simple as playing football. 

Just for some perspective, imagine an alternate reality of the United States in the 1960s, where the experience of today’s political elite had been formed in the negro baseball leagues. The country is led by President Jackie Robinson, Vice President Satchel Paige, and Secretary of State Willie Mays. Sounds crazy? Replace baseball with soccer, and you’ve got South Africa, a country that has shown that football is more than just an opiate for the masses and has given new meaning to the term “political football.”

For those of you unfamiliar with Robben Island, it is a prison just off the coast of Cape Town where hardened criminals and political prisoners who had been involved in the struggle against the Apartheid rule were sent. The conditions on Robben Island were dire, prisoners were undernourished, beaten, and forced to break rocks into smaller rocks that would eventually be used to reinforce the prison walls. The ultimate purpose of Robben Island was to isolate men from everyday society and to break their will to continue the struggle for change. In turn, the prisoners regarded it as an obligation to find ways to strengthen their resolve and to equip themselves with the skills and determination they would need to create the free, democratic South Africa they thought would exist during their lifetimes.

The construction of the Makana Football Association didn’t happen overnight, it was an extensive process that required ample perseverance. Every week from 1964 to 1967, a prisoner, a different one every time as punishments often followed such impunity, would make an official request to be allowed to play football and every week for three years, the prison warden would refuse. What eventually changed the mind of the warden is unknown but in the end he conceded the right to play football to the prisoners on Robben Island. Football was much more than just a game for the prisoners – it was one of the ways in which they confirmed their dignity as individuals and asserted their right to run at least a part of their lives despite the brutal conditions of the prison.

Of the men who played in the prison’s soccer league, an astonishing number would go on to become important figures in shaping post-apartheid South Africa.Their ranks include current President Jacob Zuma, opposition leader and former Defense Minister “Terror” Lekota, Minister of Human Settlements “Tokyo” Sexwale, and Kgalema Motlanthe, who completed former President Thabo Mbeki’s second term. Mandela never participated; he watched the early games from an isolation block until the authorities built a wall to obstruct his view and to stop prisoners from passing notes to him during the matches. Zuma had the distinction of doubling as a referee. Leave it to a future president to play one weekend and arbitrate the next.

This story has not gone unnoticed, in recent years a book was published that told the story of the Makana Football Association and a film was made based on the book. In the book “More Than Just A Game: Soccer vs. Apartheid: The Most Important Soccer Story Ever Told,’’ Chuck Korr and Marvin Close make the case that organizing and maintaining the prison soccer league increased the confidence, managerial skills, and morale of the inmates. Working together to convince the prison authorities that they should have the opportunity to build a proper field and to wear soccer uniforms rather than prison garb a couple of times a week helped the men to increase their sense of self-respect, and ultimately persuaded some of the guards and administrators to acknowledge the ingenuity, talents, and tenacity of the inmates. Perhaps more significantly, members of the various organizations dedicated to dismantling apartheid learned they could work together.

Trailer for More Than Just a Game

The Island prisoner community was made up of two major factions in the struggle against apartheid, the PAC (Pan Africanist Congress) and the ANC (African National Congress), along with a number of small groups. The PAC was a group that had separated from the ANC and established itself in April 1959. The two groups disagreed on a number of issues including the future for a multi-racial South Africa and the tactics to be used to confront the increasingly violent enforcement of the apartheid regulations. They did agree on the need to end the system over time and, in the short term, to challenge some of its harshest policies but for the most part they remained hostile. They carried this hostility onto the Island, separating themselves as much as was possible in the close confines of the Island. The campaign for football and the need to create an organized structure for that changed the relationship between the PAC and the ANC. It was the first activity upon which the two largest political factions on the Island (at that time, the PAC was the larger of the two) cooperated which showed how much football mattered and that it was possible for the men to act together.

For the political prisoners, administering and managing football became a developmental process for honing administrative and leadership skills. Tony Suze, one of the men who helped organize the league commented that,

“Football was a crutch that supported us from mental collapse but it also focused us on who we were, what could happen (if we honed our organizing skills), and what would be! There was never any doubt in our minds that we were a government-in-waiting. And everything we did, including playing, managing and administering soccer, had to be done properly.”

Anthony Suze and Sepp Blatter hug for the cameras during Fifa’s visit to Robben Island

The men who established the Manong Football Club, Gunners, Rangers, Ditshitshidi, and the other teams that made up the Makana Football Association felt that their duty was to maintain themselves physically, psychologically, and spiritually while incarcerated, so that when they got off the island, they would be fully equipped to take up once again the struggle for the freedom of their people. Playing soccer became an important part of the routine that allowed men like Tony Suze and Jacob Zuma to emerge stronger than ever from confinement and move South Africa toward a more promising future.

Let us now put the story of the Makana Football Association in the context of the larger history of football in South Africa. The Afrikaner officials of the apartheid regime never embraced football. They loved rugby and cricket and funded those sports generously, but saw football as a game for Africans. At first, they ignored the sport — then they began to ban some matches. In April 1963, at the Natalspruit Sports Ground in Johannesburg, authorities locked the gates and left a note saying the day’s games had been canceled. Fifteen thousand supporters scaled the gates, carrying an extra pair of goal posts to replace a set that had been removed. The matches went ahead.

Soccer kept countering apartheid — white teams knew that to test themselves they had to play against the black teams, and unofficial games became more and more common. The truth became obvious: The white league was second class. Few were surprised at its collapse in 1977. Despite the outright segregation in the rest of South African society, in 1976, the government allowed a mixed-race team to play against a visiting Argentine squad in Johannesburg. Black and white South Africans lined up together on the pitch, though the stands were still segregated. The home team won 5-0, including a hat trick for a then unknown black player named Jomo Sono. When he scored against Argentina, his teammates, black and white, did what teammates have always done: hugged and shook hands. This feel-good victory was overshadowed only a few weeks later, however, when approximately 500 black South Africans were killed in the Soweto uprising.

Jomo Sono

Jomo Sono, when he returned from his lucrative stint alongside Pelé in the New York Cosmos, made a very political statement in 1982 apartheid South Africa — he bought the white soccer powerhouse, Highlands Park.

 Apartheid’s opponents quickly seized on the potential that football had to rally support and raise funds. The African National Congress (ANC), then a banned underground movement, quickly realized that wherever there was football, there was a crowd. Political meetings suffered a blanket ban from 1976 onward, but it was far harder to prevent several members of a political party from sitting together in the stands, amid thousands. Zuma, for instance, would emerge from hiding to attend the matches of the Zulu Royals and confer with other politicians. Peter Alegi, a historian and author of “African Soccerscapes”, claims that as early as 1944, the revenue from football matches was being handed over to the ANC. Patson Banda, a former player for the Orlando Pirates, remembers one game that was played across the border in Zimbabwe in front of more than 100,000 paying fans. Again, the ANC received the proceeds collected at the gate.

By the late 1980s, football matches were at center stage of the country’s rapidly evolving politics. ANC flags, which were still banned, were seen openly in football stadiums, a sign of the regime’s weakening grip on power. In 1991, South Africa’s current football federation was founded. During its inaugural meeting, it made the astonishing assertion that its formation was “only natural … as the sport of soccer had long led the way into breaking the tight grip of racial oppression.” It was an audacious statement, even dangerous, as the fall of apartheid was still more than two years away.

Football played a central role in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and what happened on Robben Island is just one compelling chapter in the larger story of how something as simple as football became a bastion of hope for all those who believed in a brighter future for South Africa.


Korr, Chuck(2010) ‘Tony Suze’s reflections on the importance of sport in the struggle to end Apartheid’, Sport in Society, 13: 1, 32 — 35

 Suze, Anthony(2010) ‘The untold story of Robben Island: sports and the anti-Apartheid movement’, Sport in Society, 13: 1, 36 — 42,0

My City, My World Cup

17 Jun

South African pride

The Mail & Guardian, one of South Africa’s leading newspapers has been interviewing South Africans each week about what the World Cup means to them. I wanted to share excerpts from each interview because I think they show the various expectations that South Africans have for the World Cup.

We’ve heard it all already: the World Cup is supposed to create jobs, bring more people into the economy and leave an infrastructural legacy to be marveled at. The tournament will also serve as a unifying moment as “rainbow nationalism” is galvanized around the tournament and Bafana Bafana.
But what do South Africans say about the World Cup?

Khalo Matabane

A bravely singular director, his films have tackled issues central to South Africa’s fragile democracy with sensitivity and intelligence.

What are your expectations of the World Cup? This sense of cosmopolitanism that you see and feel in cities like New York — the world in one, hopefully, for a month in South Africa. I would like the World Cup to remain in the continent and I think it’s not a far-fetched idea.

What has been the biggest challenge facing South Africa in terms of readying itself and hosting the World Cup?
Some people will always ask; was it necessary to host the World Cup and spend billions instead of building better hospitals where babies won’t die or provide free education? That is the political and philosophical and maybe human question. On the other hand, the challenge is how many ordinary South Africans who love soccer will manage to afford to go to the stadium with the high unemployment and poverty?

What about Johannesburg will mark it out as especially different for World Cup tourists?
It is a bizarre city. All at once it has a feel like a battle of cultures: African, American and European and soon Chinese. It has developed infrastructure but also has so many poor people and is diverse.

Bafana’s chances? We all know soccer is a strange game. We hope our vuvuzelas, Madiba magic and the JZ dance plus sangomas will help where the players can’t.

Which matches will you be going to? I will be watching at home and sometimes in the streets.
Comment: This interview exposes one of the greatest challenges of the World Cup in South Africa which is making sure that ordinary South Africans are able to afford tickets to the games in order to fully participate in the historical occasion. There are fan parks set up around the country where everyone can watch on a big screen for free but its not the same as actually being there. Tickets are available for South Africans for 140 Rand which is the equivalent of 20 USD. As for some of the terminology, Madiba magic refers to the “magic” that stems from having Madiba (Nelson Mandela) present at the stadium. Sangomas are like traditional healers and if you don’t know what a vuvuzela is by now you shouldn’t be reading this blog.

Lael Bethlehem

the CEO of the Johannesburg Development Agency

What are your expectations of the World Cup?
A four-week window to change the way people think about Africa. To show that South Africa is a vibrant, growing and confident country, that we are organized.

What has been the biggest challenge facing South Africa in terms of readying itself and hosting the World Cup?
Transport has been a massive challenge, and also a brilliant opportunity. I doubt that the Rea Vaya BRT system would have been built in Joburg without the Soccer World Cup as a catalyst. And Gautrain would not have been done as quickly. The event has given us the chance to create new systems — and we’ll be feeling the benefit of that for many years to come.

What has been the biggest shortcoming in our preparing for and hosting of the tournament? Getting people to realise that hosting this event is not just about infrastructure. We’re showing off the whole culture of the country every South African is a host and we must be ready to play our part.

Comment: The World Cup has been “sold” to South Africans. It has been marketed as an opportunity to show the world just how wonderful South Africa is which will hopefully bring in tourists for years to come. The billions of dollars that have been spent on the World Cup have also been justified by the infrastructural legacy that will be left behind after July 11th. In Johannesburg, the Rea Vaya is a bus system and the Gautrain is a high speed rail. I’ve heard South Africans say that the price of the Gautrain puts it out of reach for most South Africans.
Professor Tim Noakes

The pre-eminent sports doctor in the country who is also the founder and director of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa.

What are your expectations of the World Cup? The World Cup will change the perception of South Africa in the rest of the world. And this will be for the better. South Africa is a beautiful country with a vibrant soul and a captivating mix of people, almost all of whom are remarkably hospitable and generous.The economic impact will flow from this changed perception. We will be seen as a serious developing country.

What has been the biggest challenge facing South Africa in terms of readying itself and hosting the World Cup? The first challenge has been the cost. Hopefully this will not be a drain on future development of more pressing social needs in this country. The big challenge has been to generate interest in our national team given that they are not competitive internationally. It seems that patriotism and a natural optimism amongst our SA soccer followers will overcome this at least for the first few games.

How do you think the World Cup will change soccer (its infrastructure, administration and the way it is played) in Cape Town? Sport in general?
No effect on either. South African sport will be uplifted by individuals and teams that have a global vision and a desire to be the best in the world. I have yet to find any influential administrator of any South African sport who shares that vision and who places sporting excellence as a non-negotiable. Until that happens, most of our sports and especially soccer will continue to be ordinary by global standards.

Comment: The first World Cup in Africa will do little to strengthen the local football leagues. If these leagues were to be developed then we wouldn’t see the flow of talented African players to Europe and the rest of the world which mirrors the “brain drain” of other professionals in Africa. African players like Drogba, Eto’o, and Essien are key players at some of Europe’s biggest clubs and while they are happy to play for their home countries during the World Cup, there isn’t an economic incentive for them to play their club football at home.

Silas and Samuel Muzumbi

Silas (23) and Samuel (27) Muzumbi are street traders and brothers from Zimbabwe. Sitting on a beer crate and listening to reggae music, you can find the street traders selling their beaded wire art everyday on corner 7th and 2nd streets in Melville.

The brothers who’ve been in South Africa for almost two years have been selling their hand made artwork at this corner for almost six months. 
”The economy in our country made it very difficult for us to sell our art so we decided to come to South Africa to make a decent living,” Samuel told the Mail & Guardian.

So are you going to be making more things come the Soccer World Cup? We plan on making a lot of things. Now we have lots of things but we can’t put them here because of the Johannesburg Metro cops.

What have they been doing? They come and take our stuff, each and every time they put us down. We had a lot of stuff last week but now we have a little because they took it, now we have to start making it again.

Why are they trying to get you off the streets? They say there is no license to sell in the street, but then we went to the metro department in town for the license and then they said there is no license to sell art on the street.

Have the metro cops been worse now in the lead up to the World Cup? The metro cops are coming worse since the world cup is around the corner. They have let us down. We are trying to make art because you know art is an African thing but they come and take our stock all the time.

Comment: The average South African is unlikely to see any monetary benefits from the World Cup. Those who own hotels, restaurants, and other sorts of shops are the ones who will benefit from the month long stream of tourists. Street traders and those involved in the informal sector of the economy were upset with FIFA’s stringent regulations. FIFA has exclusive rights to sell products that say FIFA, FIFA World Cup, or even World Cup which leaves little room for South Africans entrepreneurs. What you do see people selling are flags and vuvuzelas.

Elias Maluleke

Maluleke (52) was one of more than 2 500 workers employed to build the Cape Town stadium  in 2007.

”The stadium was built by African men from all over the continent,” he tells the M&G.

”We, the people who took part in building the stadiums, are proud of what we have been able to do.”

Green Point, now renamed Cape Town stadium, received a massive facelift when it was turned into a 70 000-seater, all-weather, multi-purpose world-class stadium.

 He is proud to be one of the many African men from around the continent that were involved in the building of the structure.

After the stadium was built, what was the feeling among those who helped built it? We felt very happy because we had the opportunity to do that for our continent. We were also happy to expose our experiences, even abroad.

So are you planning on watching any games? I haven’t received my tickets yet, but we were promised that all of those building the stadium would get two World Cup tickets. We can’t choose the games but I was told that I’d be watching a game played in Cape Town.

Are you excited about the World Cup? Yes. I didn’t think that one day the World Cup would come to Africa. I am very happy because South Africa has shown the world that we can do it. When Fifa officials visited South Africa to check our stadiums, they said we had done really marvellous work.

Comment: Elias is proud of his work because the Cape Town stadium isn’t just for South Africa, it is for the whole continent. This has been deemed Africa’s World Cup and I would be willing to bet that most fans watching the tournament w0uld be unable to differentiate South Africa from the rest of the continent. South Africa has simply become Africa. I’m glad that the construction workers will get tickets to some of the matches, surely they deserve them.

Clive Barker

The former Bafana Bafana coach.

What has been the biggest challenge for the country in terms of preparing to host the World Cup? Adjusting to all the criticism levelled against the country and then accepting that it was, and is, going to happen. There were a lot of sceptics critical of our crime, [saying] stadiums weren’t going to be ready in time … I think they will continue to be proved wrong.

How do you think the World Cup will change football? A legacy for young footballers will be seeing some of the greatest players in the world in their backyards — [Lionel] Messi, [Wesley] Sneijder, [Cristiano] Ronaldo and even [Steven] Pienaar — this is going to be inspirational for them. Thirty years ago we didn’t even have international football to watch [because of sporting sanctions]. Now, the kids will be going to bed dreaming of these players and of scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final in 20 years’ time.

Bafana Bafana’s chances? Realistically, it’s going to be difficult to qualify for the knock-out phase. We can do it, but we need to beat Mexico [in the opening match]. If we played France at basketball we would probably lose because Thierry Henry would use his hands, but I think we can also beat them — they’re not as fluent as they were 10 years ago.

Comment: I think that the critics have been proved wrong, South Africa has hosted a wonderful tournament thus far. Is the inspiration of having some of the world’s best players in your backyard worth the 6 billion dollar price tag, or should that money have been used  to invest in health and education.

Andile Bhekizulu

A 22-year-old bricklayer working on Durban’s beachfront.

What are your expectations of the World Cup? I don’t have any expectations for the World Cup.

Why not — don’t you have tickets? Aren’t you excited? No, I don’t have tickets because they’re just too expensive. I should be moving my mind to the World Cup but my mind is still on my bank balance.

But you’re here working on the Durban beachfront. The World Cup has helped in creating a job for you. Yes, but I’m earning R80 a day (laying paving on the promenade). I’m working for the government, but it’s not really a living; I survive, but not very well. My mind is on my bank balance, not the soccer.

Three tips on things to do between matches in Durban?
For tourists? I don’t know what they will like, I don’t know them and I don’t think they will come to the townships.

Comment: Simply put, this one needs no comment.

Mike Sutcliffe

Durban municipal manager

What are your expectations of the World Cup? Our approach to the 2010 Fifa World Cup (called Our 2010 and Beyond Strategy) is one of five key long-term programmes we have been driving at a strategic level: (i) food security and housing for all; (ii) reducing the social wage (ICT and Public Transport); (iii) preparing for climate change and energy shifts; (iv) growing the port and manufacturing; (v) 2010 and Beyond eventing and tourism strategy. 

Each of these consisted of doing a fair amount of research on the international experience and then developing our own strategies. So our expectations were to ensure that everything we did for the 2010 Fifa World Cup was part of a longer-term strategy and had four main drivers: create the icon (stadium, beachfront); ensure we keep maintenance costs as low as possible; build economic opportunities; and environmental sustainability.

What has been the biggest challenge facing South Africa in terms of readying itself for and hosting the World Cup? Afropessimism.

What has been Durban’s biggest challenge? Afropessimism and resource challenges (skilled project managers and other technical and financial resources)

Comment: Glad to hear there are long-term plans in place, wish there was a bit more transparency. If an African team doesn’t make it out of the group stages then there will be a lot more Afropessimism to worry about.

Tsepo wa Mamatu

A university lecturer and theatre director whose plays tend to provide sharp political criticism.

What are your expectations for the World Cup?

I expect the country to search her soul and wonder why suddenly South Africans, Black and white, have decided that they are long-lost lovers. I expect a buzz, the one you get from a soft drink- tasty at first but all sugary and tasteless a few more sips down. I expect whites to affirm that they have always known that South Africa is working – all we need is another spectacular event, like the Olympics.

What has been the biggest challenge facing South Africa in terms of readying itself and hosting the World Cup?

The biggest challenge has been selling the circus to the most average of us- how to convince millions of us that suddenly the city will be safe, just like in Europe. You mean, now I can walk bravely in downtown Jo’burg? Heck, what took so long to get it right? Ah, that our former masters can see how the post-colony has thrived since the last time they docked over here. So the challenge has been: “How do we make massa proud of us, of how well we have kept the plantation since he was last here?” Who knows, he might want to whip us back into his fold. After all, what are we going to do with the Gautrain?

Tips on things to do between matches in Johannesburg?

Walk around the city to realise and romanticise decay as signs of new beginnings. And buy from hawkers- damn, it’s their money anyway, stolen by years of colonial rule and moons of blaxploitation.

Comment: Brilliantly put for the most part. It’s sad but true.

Can you feel it? It is here!

17 Jun

The day before the World Cup kicked off I was driving around with my friend here in Johannesburg and a car pulled up next to us at a stoplight and the man inside rolled down his window and motioned for me to roll down mine. I did so cautiously, I had obviously heard about how dangerous Johannesburg is and the man didn’t look too friendly, once I rolled down the window he leaned over and said “Can you feel it? It is here!” and then a huge smile spread across his face. The light turned green and we sped off while blasting the official World Cup theme song Waka Waka (which sounds better with a lot of bass mixed with the mounting excitement for the greatest sporting event in the world).

The World Cup is now well under way but I think the most exciting moment in the tournament thus far was the opening match between South Africa and Mexico. South Africans were confident that their vuvuzelas, Madiba magic, and ever improving team would be able to sweep aside the Mexicans. A popular fast food restaurant named Nandos ran a full page ad in most of the newspapers that said, “To the Mexicans, a free lunch if you lose.” The excitement here in Johannesburg on June 11th is hard to describe. South Africans had been waiting for that moment for 4 long years. There were countdowns to mark when the tournament was 500 days away, 100 days away, and 50 days away. The wait was finally over, it was time to unveil South Africa to the world.

For the opening match we decided not to go to a fan park because it would be too crowded but we still wanted to watch it with other South Africans so we ended up at a bar. The funny thing about this bar is that it is actually a part of the Zoo Lake Bowling Club, a lawn bowling club in the heart of Johannesburg. I think it is safe to assume that 15 years ago, before the end of apartheid, this would have been a Whites Only institution. The crowd gathered however was very representative of makeup of the “rainbow nation” as South Africa is affectionately called. There were white, black, and Indian South Africans in the crowd, including one fake South African who had put on his South African national team jersey for the occasion. I was caught up in the euphoria of the moment but I forced myself to step back and critically analyze the situation in which I was in. The unifying power of sport should never be underestimated. Yes, sport can create intense rivalries and there has even been a war fought over football, but what I witnessed was the truly beautiful side of the “beautiful game”. One popular beer ad implores the public to set aside its differences because “now is the time to unite behind Bafana Bafana”. This unity should run deeper that football, it should last longer than 90 minutes. What I witnessed at the Zoo Lake Bowling Club wouldn’t have been possible 15 years ago. The physical barriers that separated blacks from whites from coloreds have been torn down, however, their legacy remains in the hearts and minds of South Africans. The night of June 11th 2010 was a symbol of just how far the country has come. I am not naive enough as to think that South Africa has completely rid itself of prejudice and discrimination or that hosting the World Cup has brought the country together for good. What I saw that night was the culmination of years and years of work after the end of apartheid to break down the mental walls that were just as powerful if not more powerful than the physical ones that once divided the country.

South Africa midfielder Steven Pienaar perfectly sums up the growing excitement leading up to the World Cup.

“I think it will be a really special moment,” Pienaar told the BBC. “Not only for the players, but for all South Africa and the whole continent, because it is going to be a day of history, like when Nelson Mandela came out of prison. For us, it is special because it is the first World Cup on African soil. We’re going to make history.”

Pienaar is not the first person to compare the opening of the World Cup to the day that Mandela was released from prison. Danny Jordaan, the head of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee in South Africa has also compared the two historical events in the same breath. In an interview, Danny Jordaan said that when the envelope was opened in 2004 granting South Africa the 2010 event, “I think it was almost a second liberation for us, it was huge moment of joy… the second affirmation of the worth of our country.” He went on to say,

“For me, to think back on special moments in our history: the day that Nelson Mandela walked out of prison, the day that we voted for the first time in 1994 — the beginning of democracy in our country — this day (winning the World Cup) stands equal if not ahead as an experience and a significant development in the history of our country.”

Personally, I think this is a bit of an overstatement. Hosting the World Cup has had an undeniable role in rallying people together, but it cannot hope to match the importance of Nelson Mandela walking out of prison. Hundreds if not thousands of people died in the anti-apartheid struggle, they fought to turn the tide in the country, so that one day Mandela might be released and might lead the country into a brighter tomorrow. I think we do them a great dishonor by equating their sacrifice with the hosting of this circus that is the World Cup.

Wavin’ flag

Proudly South African

At Zoo Lake Bowling Club for the opening match

View from the fan park in Johannesburg

Makarapa Madness!!

Interesting to note that the Ivory Coast players (in orange) and the South African players (in yellow) have very light skin tones even though nearly all of those players are black Africans

Fans with a ball of their own