World Cup: South Africa gets that Friday feeling

Tim Sturtridge

You Dancing You Asking1 1024x768 World Cup: South Africa gets that Friday feelingFeel It. It Is Here. Those are the words echoing through South Africa as football prepares to come home.

While state broadcaster SABC got their World Cup slogan spot on there remains some debate over when the ball actually gets rolling. SABC appeared to be jumping the gun by claiming there are only two days to go while rival station are going for the more modest prediction of three days.

One thing both channels have agreed on however is the best way to transmit the magnitude of the coming events to the South African public. SABC’s Generations is the country’s longest running soap opera and has been a sea of yellow and green in the run up to the World Cup. Even though gay couple Jason Malinga and Cenzo Zondo are still being snubbed by Cenzo’s biological father over five million viewers watch the pair wear their national colours with pride.

The story is no different over on in their flagship soapie, Rhythm City. Lucilla Vilakazi has had to put up with a husband in a coma and a plot to kidnap her baby, still she finds time to pull on her Bafana Bafana shirt in the morning.

Pinning your colours to the mast has been a South African pastime for the best part of a year now thanks to Football Friday. At the end of every working week people in all walks of life have been encouraged to pull on the shirt of their favourite team. This has seen South Africans gearing up for the weekend with a protea over their heart. Of course there have been some folk lowering the tone by wearing Manchester United shirts.

For the final Football Friday before Bafana Bafana stride out against Mexico I headed down to Soweto to find the party already in full swing. I fully admit to being a tad apprehensive about heading down to Bara Mall but the promise of an Amstel Lager giveaway flushed out my misgivings.

A thirsty crowd gathered in the shadow of the Baragwanath Taxi and Bus station to listen to the musical stylings of Mzeke Zeke and Thembi Seete. Before any free booze was dished out though the parched Sowetans were ask to a perform a jig in unison.

Now the good people of Amstal have had years of perfecting the piss-up in a brewery but getting Soweto in sync proved a little beyond their reach. While Sowetans preferred to cut their own shapes there was still a strong unity to be found surrounding the World Cup.

Being a football fan has meant two things to me since I took a break from playing hide-and-seek on the terraces and watched what was happening on the pitch. The first thing is an unconditional love for Exeter City and the other equally strong grip is a hatred for Plymouth Argyle.

Soweto has its own grudge match between Orlando Pirates and Kaiser Chiefs but the football fans tucking into their beers on Friday told me that this is not a World Cup taking place in one country but on a whole continent. The Super Eagles, The Black Stars, The Indomitable Lions, The Elephants and even The Desert Foxes will be made to feel at home against anyone other than South Africa.

It always appears open season to have a pop at Sepp Blatter, so often cast as football’s Prince Philip or Julius Malema (South Africa is still recovering from a collective stitch after Malema’s “He is a women” defence of Caster Semenya).

Down in Soweto however there is respect for Blatter and his boys for taking a punt on Africa, it certainly makes a change from Uefa’s recent decision to snub Turkey and play safe with France.

This vision of a united Africa was also on display during the Sunday service at Grace Bible Church in the Pimville area of Soweto. The kind of attendance that would have Torquay United fans screaming hallelujah was treated to a mass diski dance and sing-a-long before Pastor Mosa Sono got down to business.

In his very own Theatre of Dreams the Pastor addressed the 4,500 capacity congregation and a further thousand watching next door in the church’s community centre. The theme of the sermon was ‘Ke Nako’ which means It Is Time in three of South Africa’s 11 official languages.

To highlight his point Pastor Sono flashed up a line from the Book of Ecclesiastes on the same big screens which will be showing World Cup games later this week.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”

Just as Pete Seeger employed this verse for his own purpose Pastor Sono used it to illustrate God’s concept of time. The clergyman went on to tell of his disappointment when Germany pipped South Africa as host nation of the 2006 World Cup only for things to come good four years later. Cue a good old blast on the vuvuzelas dotted among the pews.

Pastor Sono was followed on stage by a spokeswomen from the South African Society of Progressive Women who warned the congregation of a possible upsurge in human trafficking during the World Cup. Every Sunday guest speakers is invited to talk about issues such as Aids, substance abuse and bereavement and the church’s community centre offers courses in subjects including computer skills, entrepreneurship and art.

The service wrapped up with more songs and flag waving as the parishioners were sent packing in an atmosphere of euphoric expectation. I returned from my weekend in Soweto feeling well nourished, not just because of the chocolate muffins and scones on sale by the roadside but due to meeting so many proud, deserving and above all happy people.

So often major tournaments can turn out to be a massive let down, especially as an England fan, but I hope you can join in the coming month for what promises to a truly special occasion. Feel It. It Is Here.

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  • Alejandro Pérez E

    I will certainly be following your takes on the WC. Like we say in Colombia, “from breakfast you know where your day’s heading”… taking this as breakfast, I’m up for good reads.

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