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Bafana is out, but we’re still in this World Cup 0

For the last two weeks I’ve enjoyed seeing my fellow South Africans more relaxed and cheerful than I have ever seen them before. And it hasn’t been racially exclusive – much like it was during the Cricket and Rugby World Cups – this time it’s been everyone.

Last night, my favourite Bafana player and star of Everton Football Club, Steven Pienaar summed it up when he said, “With football we brought our nation together and showed that we are one country…we have to be proud of our team.”

Despite a temporary wobble that saw thousands of fans leaving Loftus Stadium early when Bafana Bafana was 2-0 down against Uruguay, national pride once again reached peak levels yesterday during Football Tuesday.

As I watched the France game at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg yesterday afternoon I held my breath. Were we to restore our pride or would there be early departures? I was intrigued to see, amongst the excited supporters, about 30 people, young and old, black and white, wearing their Bafana attire whilst enjoying a meal during the match! They weren’t scrambling like the other supporters to watch the TV, but they were there, kitted out, supporting the nation!

For me the 2010 Fifa World Cup has gone far beyond the soccer. The football has merely been the vehicle, and what a vehicle it has been! But the real clincher has been what we as a nation are becoming during this time.,

So, despite the fact that Bafana Bafana is out of the World Cup, we as South Africans are all still in this World Cup!

In the months leading up to the World Cup we were subjected to factionalism and division at the behest of a few cynical motor mouths. But during this World Cup these issues have been put aside as support for our country, not just football, has been uppermost in everyone’s mind.

This is an important sign that our rainbow nation is maturing. Clearly, everyone is disappointed that our boys didn’t make it through, but we’re acutely aware of our wider responsibility as the the hosts, and we will rise to that – I hope!

We will show that despite our history, our inherited inequities, our different opportunities, our differing talents and our differentiable economic circumstances, we can all agree to work and unite as a nation in our diversity and take our rightful place in the globe.

In my view we have made this a World Cup of Conscience. We are developing a bridge between the developed and the developing world. We have put the plight of the poor on the map. Many of the World Cup legacy projects are focusing on disadvantaged communities using “the beautiful game” as a catalyst for skills development and community upliftment.

For example, some American friends of mine, arriving here with the developed world approach to competition, independence and high levels of service and a first world concept of giving and doing good, (but largely out of touch with people with real needs), are returning to America different people – Americans with South African consciences.

As Shari Cohen, an American NGO worker who admits to “going on a rant the other day regarding the cost of the 2010 World Cup versus all the critical needs South Africa is facing and whether or not the most vulnerable of this country would gain anything from having the World Cup hosted in their country” said in the Huffington Post “South Africans are drinking deeply from the cup of humanity that has been brought to their doorstep. I would never imagine that an American World Cup or Olympics would ever be this welcoming to the rest of the world. And that saddens me for the state of my home country, but it also makes me feel the pride of the South African people.

I have been truly humbled on this trip. And while I have my gripes regarding development here, I cannot say one negative thing about how South Africa has handled its duties as host and hostess to the world. If I could say one thing to sum up being here during this once-in-a-lifetime experience, it would be that I’ve learned the value of Ubuntu, and that when found and offered in abundance, the world is indeed a better place to live in.

So, if South Africa accomplishes nothing more on the playing field, it will still have won as a host country. I am a cynic, no doubt about that. And yet I have to admit, I’m a little teary just writing this because I leave for home next weekend and I will be leaving a little piece of myself here in South Africa. I just hope I have learned enough to bring back a little piece of Ubuntu to my homeland, where perhaps with a little caring and a little water, it will take root as naturally as it does here, in the cradle of civilization. When I think of Ubuntu and my recent experiences here, I think America has much to learn from Africa in general, in terms of living as a larger village; and as human beings who are all interconnected with each other, each of us having an affect on our brothers and sisters.

As the 2010 Cup slogan goes, “Feel it. It is here.” Well, I have felt it, because I am here. Thank you South Africa, for giving me this unexpected gift. I am humbled.”

But, there are still two weeks left, and despite the sense of celebration I am still holding my breath. Holding my breath because the pressure to perform as hosts is still there, the pressure to ensure that our visitors are safe is still there, the pressure to deliver efficient services is still there, and the pressure to deliver “The Best World Cup Ever” is still there!

But most of all I am holding my breath to experience the wonderful ways in which this World Cup is changing us, way beyond what “the beautiful game” can do.

By Julie CunninghamSouth Africa The Good News

© Picture-alliance/dpa

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