Bafana Bafana played a world cup final on Tuesday the 22nd of June 2010 as the whole of South Africa stopped and came together at 4.00pm to see if their team could, against all the odds, win the match against France with four clear goals and qualify for the knock out stages of the FIFA World Cup 2010.The increasing commercialisation and professionalism on all aspects of an event as important as a World Cup match brings with it certain predictability as all matches are delivered in exactly the same way. We count down the minutes in collective synchronisation. 30 minutes to kick off, the pundits start analysing the team sheets giving us little titbits to demonstrate their research skills go beyond a quick Google search. “Did you know” they begin, “that South Africa are lowest ranked team of the 32 at the world cup?” Yes we know, we reply in our heads, however, we also know that without Goliath David’s story is nothing more than a tale about a shepherd boy who went to visit his brothers carrying some roasted grain, bread and, of course, cheese for their commander, and today South Africa is a footballing David in search of a Goliath. 20 minutes to kick off the key sponsors get the extended airtime they spent a fortune acquiring (fortunes acquired from us acquiring their airtime) to convince us that perhaps we need to acquire some more of their airtime. AYOBA! 10 minutes to kick off we have live pictures from the stadium! There is the real bride of the tournament, Jabulani, marinated in the sounds of love from her groom, Vuvuzela! Here are the players, with sufficient seriousness on their faces to display they understand the gravity (and mathematics) of the situation but have the fortitude (and biology) to see it come to pass. The routine in the delivery of our entertainment, which we the fans have come to accept and in many cases embrace, extends to this side of the TV screens as well. 30 mins to kick off we stream into the Fan Fest. 20 mins to kick off, We Wave Our Flags, Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh and Open Happiness (“Happiness” is available at all FIFA Fan Fests for only ZAR 12 or ZAR 21 if you’d like your happiness in the special commemorative cup to remind you in the future just how happy you were opening happiness.) 15 mins to kick off Itâ€™s Time for Africa eh eeeh! 10 mins to kick off we’re in sync with the live pictures!
Predictability can be positive. In delivering each match the same way the organising committee ensures that nothing goes wrong with the technical side of things. Everybody, the players, the officials, the sponsors, the fans know what to expect. Routine and predictability more than anything else perhaps proved to the world what many had been saying for the last year, South Africa is ready.
The question, however, was that as a clever outsider who had manage to craftily embed myself deep within the troops of the Bafana Bafana auxiliary wing, enthroned with a lekarapa to complete my cunning disguise, would there be anything unique about being part of the South African fan experience?
Four years ago the ever efficient Germans managed to fill streets across Deutschland with flag waving fans, so Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh in itself wouldn’t quite cut it. Four years before that Korea and Japan showed that celebrating your unique football culture was to be encouraged, so the Makarapas and Vuvuzelas on their own wouldn’t quite cut it. Four years before that in France we saw a national team made up of different ethnicities (dare we say nationalities?) gel to conquer the world, so the “Rainbow Nation” in itself would not cut it.Like David’s brothers who searched high and low for a champion or weapon to defeat Goliath, sometimes when you look too hard for something you miss it when it is right in front of you (their younger brother David being the champion, the stones they walked on daily being the weapon).
What South Africa has managed to do is make its uniqueness predicable. Codified uniqueness if you like. The extraordinary masquerading as the ordinary. And that is extraordinary. As La Marseillaise died out and the National Anthem of South Africa sung by a choir 50 million strong first in Xhosa, then in Zulu, moving into Sesotho and Afrikaans, before finally ending in English that unity is extraordinary being ordinary. When you’re standing a few metres away from where, almost 20 years ago to the day, on 11 February 1990 Mandela made his first speech as a free man watching Cameroon play the Dutch in Cape Town, that is the extraordinary being ordinary. When the only painful words bothering Archbishop Desmond Tutu are that his beloved Bafana Bafana did not get the four goals they need, that is the extraordinary being ordinary.
And that is worth celebrating.
I am taking part in the “Blogging the 2010 FIFA World Cup” project. Highway Africa in partnership with Global Voices and supported by MTN will provide coverage of the 2010 World Cup from a citizen media perspective through the use of on-the-ground reporting and the aggregation and amplification of online conversations across the continent, with a special emphasis on development issues. The content will be published on our own blogs and on the Reporting Development News Africa blog. Check out the other blogger’s taking part in this project Eduardo Avila and Rebecca Wanjiku.
Cross posted at http://reportingdna.org/blogs/blog/2010/07/04/extraordinary-masquerades-as-ordinary/