Vuvuzelas and the power of Madiba Magic

Wow. What a whirlwind footie-fest. First round matches wrapped up today and I’m still reeling from the whole experience of the opening day! I can’t believe it has passed so quickly. I watched live. I’ve watched in the pub and on TV. I’ve listened on radio and been to Fanzones. And now, I can’t believe that I am off to watch Bafana Bafana taking on Uruguay in Round 2 tonight. At Loftus Versfeld nog al! The now undisputed home of South African rugby.
From a football perspective it’s a make or break game. But whether we make it through to the second round or not, we are all feeling like winners already. Sport in South Africa has never just been about sport.
In 1995, with a little Madiba Magic, we hit the peak at the World Cup rugby final. For many of us, it was the first time we truly felt complete as South Africans. A little more Madiba magic carried us to even further success in the African Cup of Nations the following year. Those were heady days indeed and, for a while, it seemed that anything and indeed everything, was possible for our fledgling democratic nation.
That’s a long time ago now. And many South Africans have become cynical about our prospects. Then in 2004 it happened. And once again, a little bit of Madiba Magic was called for during the judging process. South Africa was chosen as the host nation. For 6 years now, we have lived with the naysayers and cynics. “They’ll never be ready in time”. “They don’t have the infrastructure”! “There’s too much crime”. We heard the lot. And we just kept going.
And then came Friday 11th June. Maybe Hemingway or Tolkien could capture the emotion and grandeur of the opening ceremony & game on Friday but it’s beyond my craft capability. In any event, you’ve all seen the pictures! Heard the vuvuzelas in full cry! Football lover and rugby lover alike united for a day. Just like it was in 1995 and 1996. What a day to be a South African.
Of course, sadly, there was no Madiba Magic on the day, but Nelson Mandela’s legacy lives on and will live on whether he is physically present or not. That is his gift to us and our responsibility, as South Africans, towards him.
But it was also about the game and the party. Got there nice and early and was reliably informed by the caterers that I had consumed the first Budweiser of the tournament. I even got interviewed on radio for my efforts. Not sure if it’s true is but hey, I’m staking my claim.

The good news is that the Buds were cold, and, to my surprise, if you have enough of them, they start tasting pretty good.
Great game. Fair result. And after a week of draws, it’s looking more and more like a good result as well. And maybe because nobody was hurting too much, it was a pretty good night with the Mexican fans.
We even got to understand why Mexicans like tequila so much. I guess it’s a bit like Bud. If you have enough, it tastes pretty good.

Not much fun with the Argentinians at Ellis Park on day two though. Mexican fans, it seems, came to watch football and party. Argentinian fans came to watch football. It was pretty intense. I can’t help feeling that Robert Green should be really pleased he’s not playing for Argentina. I’m not sure that “Hand of Plod” jokes would have been enough for Argentinian fans if they had drawn with Nigeria because of a keeper error.
Anyway, I’m going to give the Argentinians another chance tomorrow. Going to watch Argentina v South Korea. Got to see Lionel Messi scoring. Got to hand it to Messi though, the wry smile on his face on Saturday told us all that he could see the funny side of having “one of those days”. And, unlike England, he didn’t blame the ball. I wonder how England fans will react if Wayne Rooney has “one of those days” against Algeria?
I guess that’s the difference between South African fans and the other nations. We don’t really expect to win and besides, it’s the African World Cup in South Africa. We’ve got another 5 tickets to the lottery. I’m not sure who got the biggest blast on the vuvuzelas this week. Bafana Bafana or Didier Drogba when he ran on for Cote d’Ivoire against Portugal. As long as there is an African team in the competition, the tournament will remain live for South African fans.
Maybe a little Madiba Magic can unite us now as a continent. Not just as a nation.