“Ke nako” for us as a country to open up our arms and welcome the world to our shores. The time has come for us to let our homes be homes to strangers if need be, but we need to open our hearts to generate warmth for our visitors through our undying smiles.
The prophets of doom have been doomed and rendered themselves phoney prophets, because the prophecy that South Africa would never be ready to host the World Cup didn’t see the light of day. Many people misdiagnosed South Africa, because they saw what was happening in countries like Sudan and thought that they could paint all African countries with the same brush.
Today the people of the world are certain about descending on South Africa, so as to experience the FIFA World Cup 2010 spectacle for the first time on African soil. Africa is rich, Africa is filled with ubuntu and humanity, that is why we are certain that “ke yona” World Cup will never be comparable to any other.
The people of the South never fail to rise to the occasion; many in South Africa doubted how well the white community would support the soccer World Cup – soccer is viewed as a black people’s sport and there are not many white people who support local teams, just like there are not as many black people who support rugby as compared to their white counterparts. However, driven by the spirit of the World Cup I have heard all people, irrespective of race and ethnic group saying “Fevah. Sinayo” to support South Africa and display a united front for our country and be patriotic enough so that our players in Bafana Bafana can believe in themselves even more.
Contrary to popular belief, our white citizens have bought the Bafana Bafana jersey in droves; Indian citizens have equally joined the party and gone out to showcase our national colours. The “football Fridays” have been such a success that not even the initiator of the programme could foresee. I have admired many cars and houses decorated and dressed with our national colours, the mirror fittings on cars, the flags sticking up on car windows and the many homes that have been made colourful by our beautiful South African flag.
Everyday we see South Africans experiencing the spirit of being equal citizens committed to one cause – that being to protect the image of South Africa and to provide the most hospitable reception to the people of the global community as they touch down on African soil. As a nation we have put aside our differences; as a nation we have allowed ourselves to integrate with one another so that the spirit of the World Cup is remembered by all those who will be part of this great show. The national unity displayed by the citizenry shows that we are grateful and pleased by the work done by our Local Organising Committee, under the leadership of Danny Jordan and Irvin Khoza. Sport is once again proving to be a great catalyst in the drive towards nation building and ensuring that though our races may be plural, the fact that we are all human beings unites us to a single race, known as the Human Race.
When the Blue Bulls played their super 14 semi-final and final matches in Orlando East, Soweto, some people in the township had never experienced such a celebratory mood dominated by white people. There were many white people who had never thought of going to Soweto up until the soccer World Cup required that the Loftus Versfeld Stadium be shut down for final preparations for the World Cup. This was seen as an inconvenience by many fans of “die Blou Bulle”, but many of us rejoiced as it offered yet another opportunity for reconciliation to move a step further in our country. One cannot deny the reality that some people’s lives were changed as they experienced Soweto – the hospitality that they received from the residents there was immeasurable. For the residents, many of them had their views dispelled about believing that white people are not interested in learning about Africans. The integration witnessed in Soweto was thanks to the soccer World Cup, without it the Blue Bulls would have never gone to play in Orlando Stadium – again sport being at the heart of nation building. I put emphasis on the race matter because for as long as we see race in each other before we realise the fact that we are all human beings, nation building will remain a far fetched subject. As a nation we need to be comfortable in each other’s presence and never allow anyone to break our ties of connectedness as citizens.
I am proudly South African and that is the message we should all send to the people of the world - nothing can bring us down. After the World Cup, the Bafana Bafana jerseys may disappear, the flags will be dismounted, the cars will look ordinary again, the smiles amongst strangers will disappear and many of us will retract back to our normality, but one thing that is guaranteed is that as a nation we will never view each other the same as we did before 2010. As a nation we will remain knowing what we are capable of when we are put to task to defend and showcase our nation. Deep down within ourselves we will know that South Africans want the best for this nation and are willing to work towards this objective. The reality is that “ixesha loku bambisana singu Mzansi Afrika sele lifikile” and this we must do beyond the soccer World Cup if we want to build a better nation for all.
The time to say “Feel it. It is here” is disappearing: what we need to stand up and shout out loud while blowing those vuvuzelas is to say, “See it. It is here”. All the critics that thought there was a plan B, C and D in some cases need to come and witness the marvellous work that has been delivered by South Africans. Ordinary men and women who built the infrastructure – they deserve a standing ovation. When the football crazy community leaves our shores they must be able to say “Siyabonga, nisi phathe kahle”, so that they may surely want to return to our country. The time has come for us to unite Mzansi beyond our differences and our diversity is what makes us a beautiful country. Our plural cultures are what will make the global community experience 11 countries in one. That is why we remain the best option to host this historic African Soccer World Cup.
2010 is indeed a year of realisation of dreams and plans that have taken hard work, planning and commitment. Please join me in throwing my weight behind Bafana Bafana and wishing the boys well in their duty to represent the country. As we are all Africans let us support; Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana and the people of Ivory Coast. To the world we say, “Dumelang, Molweli, Sanibonani, Abusheni, Ndaa, Hello, and Welkom.”