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Reality, Sport

End of the World (Cup)

by Roger Young, illustration by Alastair Laird / 19.07.2010

Predictably the swell of FIFA approved journalist’s tweeting about their withdrawal symptoms culminated late last week in “think” pieces about what we have learnt from hosting the World Cup. Even more predictably most of them focus on how proud we should be that Sepp Blatter has given us a little pat on the head and how now we should start working towards an Olympic Bid. But let’s just cut to the chase and say it up front, Fuck the 2020 Olympic bid.

The experience of the World Cup for South Africa was like buying a super expensive tab of ecstasy, splitting it with a pretty girl, wandering around for a month telling people we don’t normally speak to that we love them and then being surprised that the pretty girl has left with some one richer and better looking. Inevitably feelings of inadequacy will set in.

The expensive lessons we learnt were 1) An effective and visible police force lowers the crime rate. 2) African national teams cannot match European National teams in this kind of competition. 3) An effective late night public transport system means fewer deaths by drunken driving. 4) More public rubbish bins means less litter. 5) If you can’t see poverty it doesn’t exist and 6) Large spectacles divert our attention away from the issues. These were hardly lessons we needed to spend a couple hundred hospitals and schools on.

The term “Unrealistic Expectations” entered the popular lexicon like a poesklap when Bafana crashed out. We need to apply this term to the expectations we had for what the World Cup was going to do for us. Unrealistically we think it’s going to make us respected by our former colonial masters, so we begged and we scraped and ran around letting them spend our national resources. And what did we expect to get? What is this “respect” that will somehow fix all our problems? By doing what exactly? Bringing some more tourists. Why do we need approval so very badly? And no I don’t buy the “Teenage Nation” theory at all, I think we’re just lazy thinkers.

On the day of the Bafana vs France game I got to the Cape Town fan park late. I had a media pass so it wasn’t a problem. But it was. The Deputy Mayor had apparently arrived and the media gate was shut, according to security staff the amount of people allowed in the fan park had been lessened for security reasons. I eventually got in. The Deputy Mayor was sitting in the grandstands, away from the hoi polloi. The day before Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London had been in the Cape Town fan park. He had no visible security, had apparently arrived unannounced and had wandered around the fan park seemingly on his own, buying beer, generally being a football fan and leaving mostly before anyone had noticed he had been there. For me it was interesting mainly because it’s always been my experience that people who make a big deal about their presence are fundamentally insecure. And this World Cup was full of signs of a nation insecure of its status in the global realm; an administration saying fuck the people, look at us.

I checked out of the World Cup early, a couple of days after the Bafana game. I was in a fan park watching the Dutch beat someone and I was planning to go to Long Street afterwards to meet happy Dutch people. (What was I expecting? Amsterdam to descend?) I had this sudden realization that by being in the fan park, by approving of this event I was essentially depriving a child somewhere of an education. Every time a South African went to a stadium they were more or less depriving a mother of her ARV’s. I know, I know, that’s capitalism right? Someone has to suffer so someone can get ahead. And yes, I’m as guilty as the rest of us, I bought into it, I took the ecstasy and I loved it.

But I have a simple question, if the City of Cape Town can provide toilets to all the people in the fan parks, why can they not build toilets in Kayelitsha? If our President can deploy scores of accountants to find the money to build stadiums, why has he still not declared his assets? If we have the political will to short cut bureaucracy and put effective infrastructure in place for FIFA, why do we not have it to make the changes for our own people? The lesson, really, that we have learned from hosting the World Cup is that all things are possible with the right motivation. The politicians we have currently seem to thrive on international approval. It’s time that they learned that the approval that matters is from the people who vote them into power. The real gees we need to carry through is the gees to campaign for effective late night public transport, cleaner streets, more visible and effective policing, hospitals, more schools, effective arts and sports programs and higher pay to teachers and policemen. Because without these things people feel disenfranchised and then look for easy targets. Not having these things is why we are constantly drawn into conversations about race, it’s why the xenophobic attacks are happening.

And I’m not talking about some vague notion of expecting government to harness the gees, I’m talking about you, right now, thinking of some way to show government that it’s time to start spending money on long-term bottom up solutions and forget these short term feel good quick fixes. And the only way for this to happen is for us to let them know by protest, effective campaign and unity, let’s pick out issues and fight for them one by one. Our politicians need to start looking for approval from the people as their motivation and realize that a secure nation doesn’t need to court attention from outside its borders. The only way they’re going to learn this is if we, the people, grow some balls and to stand up and teach them. So I say goodbye to our FIFA overlords (please take your Budweiser with you) and yeah, fuck the 2020 Olympic Bid!

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