As I’ll be spending most of this month tied to a TV or radio, I’ve so far noted one shocking fact: The South African World Cup is not riven by crime, corruption, shoddy workmanship, or terrorism. In fact, things are going swimmingly, the stadiums operations and infrastructure are beautiful, and the only deaths among the 450,000 visitors have been from road accident and falling off a mountain while admiring the scenery.
There’s more realistic complaints about the football itself, especially after the South African side’s almost suicidally poor performances (not to mention a drought of goals, dashed expectations for most African sides, and disastrous English, Spanish, and French performances). But even if rose gardens have not been delivered on the field or in terms of secondary development, so much of the press run up was so negative — even years of rumors that FIFA would move the cup at the last moment — that it may come as a shock how happy foreign fans are with what they’ve found in South Africa.
One report quotes a puzzled German fan. Puzzled because, despite the foreign press hysterics, he can go to a local bar and discover “I’m the only white guy in the room but I feel very safe.”.
South African sports reporter Peter Davies has a wonderful piece entitled An Open letter to our Foreign Media friends, marveling at the gloom of foreign media outlets who quake in terror of “machete-wielding gangs roaming the suburbs in search of tattooed, overweight Dagenham dole-queuers to ransack and leave gurgling on the pavement.” But surprise! There’s no fear in walking the streets provided you don’t hang a wad of cash out your back pocket. There are also a surprising shortage of wild animal attacks and collapsing stadia. “For instance, you will find precious few rhinos loitering on street corners, we don’t know a guy in Cairo named Dave just because we live in Johannesburg, and our stadiums are magnificent, world-class works of art.”
Andrew Harding, the BBC’s Africa correspondent, writes about tourists having “had some preconceptions overturned” as England fans descended on Phokeng. While local worried about hooligans (there were none), visitors realized they may have been misled about the dangers of “black Africa”. “We stayed at Sun City, said a couple from Leeds, sitting at [a black African run] bar. We were worried about the crime. But now we just wish we’d come and stayed here.”
There are real complaints about South Africa — suffering from gross inequality and rampant poverty — throwing this much money at a World Cup party. I do agree. But that’s all of capitalism, not just football. And it’s not like they were really going to spend this money on poor folks. At best this can be an opportunity to cross borders in solidarity, to share these struggles, both in Africa and abroad. But I for one love sport, and the joy it brings. While those who look after the rich alone will always screw the poor, football can be our weapon as well as ours. Here are some links to the Poor People’s Movement and The Shack Dwellers Movement in South Africa, and social struggles around the World Cup, including the brilliant “Poor People’s Alternative World Cup.”
- A Short History of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Durban Shack Dwellers’ Movement (Abahlali baseMjondolo)
- “Upside Down World Cup”: Raj Patel on How South Africa Has Cracked Down on the Poor and the Shack Dwellers’ Movement Ahead of the World Cup
- The First Poor People’s World Cup on African Soil from the website of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign
- South Africa: World Cup for All – (Durban Social Forum)
- SOUTH AFRICA: Poor people’s movement draws government wrath (IRIN News)
- Riot police move in as World Cup pay protests spread (The Guardian)
- Thousands protest against World Cup spending (Mail & Guardian Online)
- World Cup in South Africa: Six red cards for FIFA (Links International Journal)
- South Africa’s World Cup is a disgrace (radical africa)
- South Africa’s World Cup fest not worth the coming hangover by Patrick Bond (ZCommunications)
- Back the people of South Africa, not the football teams (newstatesman.com)
- Raj Patel: Off-Side at the World Cup (huffingtonpost.com)
Other Related articles
- The World Has Embraced Johannesburg, Influx of Tourists “Simply Amazing” (bleacherreport.com)
- Thousands protest against FIFA, World Cup excess (g.sports.yahoo.com)
- Blatter hails African effort (skysports.com)
- What will South Africa look forward to after soccer spotlight dims? (mysanantonio.com)
- Nelson Mandela’s World Cup overshadowed by death of great-granddaughter in crash (telegraph.co.uk)
- Vuvuzelas Silenced As Bafana Boys Blow It (news.sky.com)
- Home cooked (theglobeandmail.com)
- South Africa could pay penalty for unions’ Cup action (reuters.com)
- Security guards strike at World Cup matches in South Africa (cnn.com)
- ESPNsoccernet: Soccer Defeat compared to Soweto uprising (m.espn.go.com)
Shock! South Africa WC not a tourist killing orgy. by Tommy Miles, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.