It’s finally Friday and that means the first day of the 2010 FIFA World Cup here in South Africa. People have been blowing vuvuzelas (plastic horns that are ubiquitous here due to the World Cup) since 10 this morning, even at the hospital. Every Friday is Football Friday and all over South Africa people have been donning soccer gear once weekly for over a year. Today at least three quarters of the hospital staff was dressed in yellow and green and I was proud to join in by wearing my Bafana Bafana shirt. Even the sisters who had been regarding me suspiciously broke into huge grins when they saw that I was supporting Bafana. Talk about Unite Mzansi Unite!
I worked part of the night shift last night so I could leave early today and watch the kick-off of Africa’s first World Cup. Watching the opening ceremony, I’ve been amazed. South Africa may not have the technology and pyrotechnics of other host countries, but that hasn’t stopped them from putting on an incredible show. The program used over a1500 choreographed dancers to construct a map of the world and the 2010 FIFA logo, just to name a few things. Artists from all over Africa were featured, including Nigeria’s Femi Kuti, Algeria’s Khaled, and Ghana’s Osibisa. I think my favorite moment was watching Desmond Tutu dancing to South Africa’s Hip Hop Pantsula.
You can’t escape FIFA Fever on South Africa. Even TV commercials have gotten into it. While normally I wouldn’t be so excited about this, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see the degree to which even ads are calling on the nation to unite and “right the wrongs” of the past. There is a series of ads featuring soccer players and other sports celebrities urging South African men to “Do the Right Thing” (i.e. get tested for HIV, respect women, etc.). My favorite ad is one featuring a man dressed as King Shaka, a legendary Zulu king, standing in the middle of a soccer stadium calling on the nation to come together and work for a brighter future, so as to be remembered as the greatest single people ever by the rest of the world. Still, my favorite quote comes from a young girl interviewed by the Adidas “Unite, Mzansi, Unite” campaign:
“I’m gonna celebrate! even if we lose…It’s only a game, no?”
P.S. Here’s a great post-game article about the RSA-MEX game.