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.


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