As South Africans play host to the Soccer World Cup, many have high expectations. This tournament is not only about hosting the world’s best soccer teams and showing them what a friendly and hospitable country we are.
No this tournament is about much more. It is about South Africa itself.
All around the world in internet chat rooms and forums, on the streets and in cafés a recurring theme is emerging: What can this tournament do for our country?
Having lived through the World Cup in Germany in 2006, my hope is that it will be defining point in nation building. That finally after apartheid and post-apartheid societies, it will be the point where the country finally comes together much more than they did in 1995. The Rugby World Cup was simply too early for serious nation-building and had another function.
At the moment South Africa is a society that is weary and tired and everyone is playing the blaming game. A friend who returned to the country recently after 15 years abroad, wrote to me that blacks blame whites and apartheid, and whites blame blacks for their woes. The old race card. That was prior to the Wolrd Cup fever gripping the country.
In the weariness, the blame-game, the despondency there are so many parallels to Germany 16 years after re-unification. By 2006 the Ossi’s blamed the Wessi’s for their misery and the Wessi’s the Ossi’s. Everyone was despondent, tired of the financial burden of bringing East Germany onto West German standards. But miraculously that World Cup summer of 2006 the country within four weeks transformed itself into one united Germany . For the first time since the war Germans waved flags and had a new open non-threatening nationalism. It was the decisive point where the war and all its ramifications was finally buried. I ended my book on Germany with a chapter on the World Cup 2006 and how it changed that country.
For South Africa I hope that it will be the decisive point where apartheid is finally laid to rest and where we take a new pride in our country and what it had accomplished. It will be the young generation, the post-1994 generation who is not burdened by apartheid who will take the country further.
In Germany of 2006 it was the young generation that taught the older generation a few things about nation-building and national pride and burying the divisions. My hope for South Africa 2010 is on the youth and on moving forward to a new society, post Soccer World Cup.