“And then I saw the coloured Holland supporter kiss the Cameroonian supporter at the end of the match. They took pictures together, and the random white English supporter jumped in the picture as well. And they were happy. And it was awesome. And for this month we all forgot we hate each other.”
You know, as the build-up to the World Cup was happening, I just wasn’t feeling it. I guess in the line of work I am, I was just too focused on the billions of Rand I saw being spent on things that might only service this World Cup, disgusted with the knowledge that that very money could put a serious positive dent in the communities with millions of people who are still in great need; the irony that many of the South Africans who would enjoy the matches the very most, would not be able to afford a ticket, only poured salt in that wound. I also did not know how I felt about a butt-load of foreigners flooding my backyard. Yeah, I was pretty much the World Cup equivalent of the Scrooge. I rolled my eyes at the South African Broadcasting Corporations motto “Feel it. It is here.”
But then, about a week before the opening game kick-off, it happened. A South African flag factory apparently exploded and flag shrapnel was everywhere! On car rear view mirrors, on scarves, on people’s clothes, houses, shops, shoes, and baby diapers. Groups of school children lined the streets, pumping up the divers stuck in morning peak-hour-traffic, as they blew their vuvuzelas, wore their South African colours and smiles, shouted their cheers, sang their songs, waved their flags, held their posters, all shouting “Feeeeeeel it! It is HERE!“. At that very moment, a cape flats gangster smiled at an old white granny, and she smiled back; a minibus taxi driver smiled and waved a slower driver to pull in front of him; the black brother said to the white dude, “Feel it,” and the white dude replied with a thumbs up and an enthusiastic, “It is here!”
For that moment, we forgot about crime, we forgot about HIV. We forgot about Malema and his silly songs, and Zuma and his silly showers. We forgot about the ANC Youth League bashing up toilets, or the Xenophobic attcks of the past. We forgot about race and we forgot about class. We forgot we hated each other. And we maybe even realized it’s not only possible to like each other, but we could maybe, just possibly learn to love on another.
Then the streets filled with foreigners, the kick-off kicked off, the bars filled, the Fan Parks busted at their seams, and the stadiums beamed with energy and lights. People somewhere, and everywhere, are celebrating every day and every night. Every day feels like Saturday. Everybody’s having fun. And this wonderful game of soccer has begun to unite, not only this nation but, the world. I have watched almost every single game from my couch, kicking myself that I did not put forth effort to get tickets to watch a live one.
And then a friend called, with tickets 7 rows from the field, and asked me to go with her to the Cameroon vs Holland game! I said yes! I immediately got my yellow shirt with the green Mekasi head, a red hoodie to go underneath it, a Cameroon flag and my excitement together and ready for this once in a lifetime experience. I didn’t care if Cameroon was already knocked out, this is the first ever World Cup on African soil and I’m supporting Africa!
And then we walked into the amazing, glowing, spaceship-looking stadium and nothing else in the world really seemed to matter except what the sixty-something-thousand people came to watch. The stadium was a little too orange for my liking, but that only meant my fellow Cameroonian supporters, peppered into the crowd, and I had to scream louder. I waved my flag. I shouted. I saw Samuel Eto’o score a goal right before my very eyes. I saw Cameroon go down fighting. I saw the players hug each other after the match. And then I saw the coloured Holland supporter kiss the Cameroonian supporter at the end of the match. They took pictures together, and the random white English supporter jumped in the picture as well. And they were happy. And it was awesome. And for this month we all forgot we hate each other.
All our problems still exist, but the spirit around an event like this gives us the strength to come together, and fight those problems…together. I felt it. I’m feeling it. It is here.