Archive | July, 2010

Zapiro and the World Cup

28 Jul

Zapiro is a cartoon artist for South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper. Depending on who you talk to he is either a genius who brings to light pressing issues in creative ways or a man whose work is offensive at times because he is out of touch with the people. I’ve chosen to share the following comics for various reasons, I think some of them highlight certain contentious aspects of the World Cup and others I think are just plain witty.

Comment: Sepp Blatter (right) extends his arm to pass Danny Jordaan (left) the slip of paper that confirms that South Africa will indeed host the 2010 World Cup. Jordaan was the head of the South African organizing committee responsible for overseeing the World Cup preparations while Sepp Blatter holds the lofty position of President of FIFA. I think the facial expressions in the cartoon are pretty spot on. As Blatter reaches out his arm he has a grin on his face but his eyes are closed. When South Africa was announced as future hosts of the 2010 World Cup FIFA faced harsh criticism for its choice. Perhaps Blatter’s eyes are closed because he had blind faith in South Africa’s ability to rise to the occasion. Danny Jordaan has a grin on his face but is sweating bullets because he realizes the size of the task ahead of him. The image also accurately reflects the power dynamic between FIFA and South Africa. Sepp Blatter and FIFA behave as if they are infallible. If Blatter is God then some of Zapiro’s later comics would surely be considered heresy.

Comment:Bafana Bafana roughly translates to “the boys, the boys” and I’m not sure if the boys became men in this tournament but I think that the country was behind them all the way. For a team that wouldn’t have even been in the tournament had it not been for the rule that automatically gives a spot to the host country, I think they did quite well. They won’t be the sequel to Invictus but I think they can hold their heads high.

Comment:From June 11th to July 11th people from around the world were united by a common passion as soccer madness swept the globe. The problems and conflicts that divided us were swept under the rug, to be dealt with later. This cartoon seems to embrace the school of thought that views football as an opiate of the people. Much has been written about the uses of football as a means of pacifying the populace and I have to say that while I don’t fully buy into this theory, some of the arguments are indeed very interesting. But, this is nothing new; those in power have used games to take people’s minds off more pressing problems for hundreds of years. The Romans had the Coliseum and now the South Africans have the Calabash. Now that the grand event has come and gone, we can only hope that Soccer City and the other stadiums that were revamped for the World Cup don’t become modern day ruins. As for the problems swept under the rug, I think the issue of xenophobia in South Africa is a good example of just how quickly those problems have resurfaced.

Comment:This one is pretty self explanatory, a goal is a beautiful thing and should not be missed no matter what your in the middle of. The comic is also a testament to the power football has to bring people together who are in conflict… or at least to distract them for 90 minutes.

Comment:FIFA’s media restrictions during the World Cup leant validation to those who perceive FIFA as an authoritarian regime in which corruption is rife. The cartoon depicts Blatter smothering press freedom while the men behind him represent some of FIFA’s dirty little secrets.

Comment: This cartoon came out at the height of Fick Fufa sentiment in South Africa. What’s Fick Fufa? A Cape Town-based artist found a way around Fifa’s branding rules only to express his discontent with the international powerhouse. The artist, who asked to remain anonymous in fear of the long arm of FIFA, produced a run of 120 T-shirts with Fick Fufa printed on them. Later, a different shirt sprouted up with MAFIFA on it with the slogan we own the game beneath that. Why did people turn on FIFA and when did this happen? I think that the main reason is because people began to realize how little they were going to actually benefit from this World Cup. This change began to occur after the initial glitz of the opening ceremony and the first couple of games began to wear off and especially after Bafana Bafana was out of the tournament.

Comment:Heading into the quarterfinal match Ghana was certainly carrying a lot of baggage. The weight of carrying the hopes and dreams of a continent might have been too much for the young Ghanaians. With one kick Asamoah Gyan could have become a hero, he could have taken an African side further than they had ever been before. I watched the match at a fan park and I’ll never forget the feeling when he took his penalty kick and hit the cross bar. It seemed like a done deal, all Ghana had to do was make a simple penalty kick. But he missed. People fell to the ground, screamed in a mixture of outrage and disbelief, and I’ll never forget the blank stares at the screen from the people who were in complete shock. The weight of the continent’s hopes may have crushed the Ghanaian eleven, they are only human after all.

Comment: South Africans put on a world class World Cup and I think that they do have every reason to be pleased with themselves. The headlines in the cartoons are actually real headlines that ran in British tabloids during the buildup to the World Cup. Most of the headlines centered on the high crime rates and how dangerous South Africa is. This may have deterred certain English fans from making the trip to South Africa but they still had quite a large showing. To be fair, these stories ran in some of the trashier British papers and weren’t in the Telegraph or other respected newspapers. Regardless, if the papers printed these stories because they thought they would sell then I think it reveals the way certain sections of the population in England still think about “Darkest Africa”.

Comment: One of the worst parts about something like a World Cup is that eventually it has to end. The true test is how South Africans take this experience and move forward once the hangover has worn off. For the past 4 years the World Cup has been something to look forward to and now it has come and gone and it feels like something is missing. Politicians have been quick to announce that South Africa will be placing a bid for the 2020 Olympics to try to fill that gap with a different mega-event. The country was united around a common goal of hosting an incredible World Cup but can it unite around more serious issues of education for all, increased healthcare, and an end to corruption?

Comment: The threats that there would be a resurgence of xenophobic attacks after the World Cup was one blemish on the shine of the World Cup. It loomed overhead like a dark cloud and the fear of attacks was real. I was a bit skeptical about the possibility of media sensationalism with this story but when I spoke with a Zimbabwean woman who cleaned my friend’s house in Johannesburg she said that she and her friends were indeed afraid that the threats would come true. There have been incidents here and there but nothing as bad as the onslaught that occurred in 2008. I think the comic does get at the issue of just how quickly the new pan-africanism dissolved or perhaps that there are certain spaces where pan-africanism is accepted but that it is not allowed to pervade into every sector of life. When it comes to games we are one with our African brothers but when it comes to jobs then things change.

Comment: This comic cleverly plays on the saying most associated with the World Cup in South Africa. “Feel it, It is here” was used in television and radio promotions for the World Cup. I think my favorite play on this saying was written on a piece of cardboard at one of the stadiums in Joburg and it said, “Feel it, it is cold.” Funny to hear South Africans complain about their “winter” although I will admit that Joburg was colder than I had expected.

Comment: This is one of my favorites and I hope that the vuvuzela’s popularity will continue to grow. I don’t think it should be the only method of cheering but I do think that there is a place for it in fan cultures around the world.

Africa United?

1 Jul

Replace Ghana with Africa (taken at the Ghana v Germany match)


Giant Jabulani with Ghana supporters

The question everyone’s asking is: with the “Six-pack” nearly finished, will the party go on? The answer is YES. With Ghana’s next match tomorrow against Uruguay, we can expect to see Africans around the world decked out in red, yellow, and green in support of the Black Stars. They remain Africa’s hope, the last of the six African teams (Nigeria, Algeria, Ghana, South Africa, Cameroon, and Ivory Coast) that made up the “Six-pack”. If the Cup is to stay on African soil as so many hope that it will, it will be in Ghana that it finds its resting space. While it may be difficult for Americans to find a soft spot for the Black Stars after they were responsible for sending our team home less than a week ago, the African continent has quickly become united behind Ghana. It seemed that this was bound to happen. From the start, most South Africans I spoke to had realistic expectations for the African sides in the competition and didn’t expect many of them to make it out of the group stages. After South Africa became the first host nation to ever fail to advance from the group stages it was time for Saffers (South Africans) to pick a new team. For a moment, the country had been united behind Bafana Bafana. There was little time to dwell on this painful exit as one by one the other African sides crumbled. After the fall, it was the Black Stars that remained. So, Ghana it is. Would South Africans have preferred to root on the likes of the Ivory Coast with deadly striker Didier Drogba? Maybe, but that’s irrelevant now, we’re not rooting for Ghana, we’re rooting for Africa. Besides, at least its not Algeria, right? It is the duty of every African to set aside what qualms they may have with Ghana and support their brothers. For the most part, it seems that South Africans black and even white have done just that. I was at a bar in Johannesburg for the US vs Ghana match and I was surprised to see white South Africans blowing the Vuvuzela for Ghana just as hard as the black South Africans next to them. When I asked them why they were rooting for Ghana they clearly stated, “I’m African too. Ghana is our last chance.” This thrilling display of Pan-African unity will likely dry up as soon as the last of the “Six-pack” is finished. For the time being, however, it is something to revel at. It took a game for Africans to realize how much they had in common with their brothers and sisters to the north, south, east, and west. But if this fairytale story of African’s standing together as one family sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is.

While on the surface it may seem that Africans around the world have put aside their differences and rested their collective hopes and dreams on the broad shoulders of the Black Stars, there is more going on here. There are some schisms in society that four weeks of euphoria can’t possibly fill, some gaps that football can’t bridge. South Africa, a country once known for the horror of Apartheid, has a new nightmare. In recent years there has been an onslaught of xenophobic violence directed towards the immigrant community. Africans from across the continent have come to South Africa to work and to live. Unfortunately, some South Africans haven’t shown them the hospitality that they’ve been so quick to list as a selling point for why tourists should come for the World Cup. The world is welcome, bring your dollars and your euros, hell we’ll even take pesos. The world is welcome, we’ll roll out the red carpet for you, put on a grand show for you, come, enjoy, Africa is yours. The world is welcome, but our fellow Africans are not. In recent weeks there has been an increased number of threats towards “foreigners”. Don’t worry, the tourists here for the World Cup are safe, its African immigrants living throughout South Africa who find themselves in an increasingly hostile environment. There has been an influx of threats of violence towards “foreigners” after the end of the World Cup. How strange that once the cameras have gone home, once the world has turned its gaze elsewhere, South Africa may erupt.

After receiving a number of threats, Zimbabwean Kisswell Dhliwayo is temporarily closing his tuckshop in the township of Tembisa, Gauteng from July 11, when the World Cup comes to an end. “I’ve been told by so many of my customers that all foreigners must go after the World Cup. I’ve also been warned by my neighbours that people have said they will loot my shop, so I’m going to move out my stock,” he told the Mail & Guardian (a prominent South African newspaper). “I’m going to close up, maybe for a week, and see what happens.” Fearful for his safety, Dhliwayo sent a text message to a South African human rights organization, which in recent weeks has received more than 50 text messages from foreigners located in different parts of the country, complaining of intimidation and threats from locals. Human rights organizations, as well as those working with refugees and migrants, are concerned about what has been described as a “climate of threats” that points to the possibility of outbursts of xenophobia and violence. Some organizations say the government is not doing enough to try to prevent the xenophobic violence of 2008 from recurring in South Africa. Sixty-two people died in the wave of attacks two years ago, yet questions have been raised about what the reconvened inter-ministerial committee dealing with xenophobia is doing to counteract the wave of threats. This is a very serious matter; the Scalabrini Centre recently conducted a survey and found that 68% of foreigners surveyed reported receiving threats.

This was supposed to be Africa’s World Cup a time for change and yet, even amid this thrilling sense of pan-Africanism there remains the same problems that have plagued Africa for decades. I want to believe that Africa can overcome, that the euphoria that this World Cup has brought can be used as a catalyst for long-term positive change. But, I fear this unity that we are experiencing dissolves when we leave the realm of football. There are racists around the world who can root for a black football player on the pitch and then hurl a nasty insult at a black person walking past on the street after the match. In times like these I feel that football is an exception. South Africans are happy to root for their “African brothers” from Ghana ready to treat them as one of their own, but when a hard-working Zimbabwean immigrant tries to set up a shop in their neighborhood he is unwelcome and tormented. I should stop and clarify that there is only a small section of the population that is perpetuating this abuse and that as far as I know most South Africans live in perfect harmony with these “foreigners”. However, to trivialize this issue is the wrong approach. We must try to examine the root cause of this unrest that has led to a “climate of threats”. This World Cup has been full of broken promises. It did not bring the economic boom or the jobs that were promised. The result is increased economic competition among a sector of the population that is easily manipulated by local leaders with a South Africans first agenda. The same thing has happened around the world, in England, in the United States, and anywhere where there are immigrants, which is everywhere. South Africans have been on their best behavior with the global media in their backyard, it would be such a pity if the first African World Cup was remembered for what happened afterwards. When the World Cup ends I hope people won’t forget that 11 Black Stars once lit the way for the continent, lit the way towards an Africa united. Let this sense of “Africa as one” transcend football, please.