I’ve been chronicling AFCON 2013 from Rustenburg; both the activations and the live matches. With this experience, it’s pretty easy to see what the supporters bring to the game. They provide the much needed encouragement for a team to win. They are the lifeblood of a game. Their contagious energy has the ability to recharge a team that is losing. The highlight for me was the game between Ethiopia and Nigeria. It started with me bumping into one Nigerian supporter proclaiming in pidgin, “Naija is here!” The fans were in full force at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Phokeng outside of Rustenburg. Before the game Ethiopian Muslims rendered a prayer and the Ethiopian Rastafarian’s sang reggae songs. At half time due to a sheer number of Ethiopians wanting to enter the stadium and fear of a stampede, the organisers flung the gates open and let everyone in.
Fast forward to the last match hosted at Royal Bafokeng Stadium between Ivory Coast and Nigeria on Sunday night. Nigeria shocked even some of their own fans by outperforming the Elephants. The win was unexpected. Excitement spurred a Naija fan to start throwing a stash of 100 Benjamin Franklins and 200 Randela notes at the crowd. In the middle of the matches, I realised that the troubles that face Africa were forgotten. Suspended. Borders were non-existent. Africa was united, beyond the diverse cultures, tribes and sects that make up this huge continent. For a brief 90 minutes at a time, the focus shifted from how Africa is represented on international world news shows as a dark continent of savagery, poverty and corruption. It felt like this was a shadow of things to come in Africa. Where it doesn’t matter which part of Africa you come from, the language you speak, nor the pigment in your skin. But united in love of each other. Now, I hope I was not just day dreaming optimism, but catching a glimpse of the future.