A year after: one perspective from the ground

I passed a few games at the 2010 World Cup with my friend Andrew Bonfiglio; we even shared the experience of trying to leave Soccer City after the opening match between South Africa and Mexico.  Andrew  has lived in South Africa since the World Cup kicked off a year ago and he was kind enough to provide his perspective on the last year in the country, post World Cup fever.  Thanks Andrew!


By Andrew Bonfiglio

A few weeks ago now, June 11, 2011 marked the 1 year anniversary of the World Cup’s first match on the African continent as South Africa took on Mexico in the opening game Soccer City (now Nedbank stadium) . For me, it was very nostalgic. Just one year ago, after moving to South Africa only 6 weeks prior to this momentous occasion, I woke up at 7am planning on doing some work in the morning in time to watch the game in the afternoon. To my surprise, a journalist friend of mine called me about 7:15am and upon answering the phone, I heard, “Drew, how much do you love me?” I was thrown for a moment, but quickly responded, “It depends on what you say next.” Noah (www.noahrosenberg.com) had just scored us two tickets to the opening match. I couldn’t contain myself. We rushed around from 9am – 12:30am getting gear to wear to the match and picking up the tickets. Fifteen KM and 3 hours of traffic later we arrived at Soccer City and walked to our seats just before the opening whistle. Fifty five minutes later, South Africa’s Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the first goal of the tournament. The crowd erupted and the excitement was nothing like anything I had every felt or seen before. That set the stage for the rest of an amazing Cup and gave me my fondest memory of 2010. You couldn’t help but cheer for South Africa – both the team and the country – to have a successful tournament.

So here we are, one year later. I returned to South Africa less than three weeks ago, after a two month break back in the US, to run my company’s leadership development and social impact program (www.emzingo.com, video). The vibe was certainly different. June 11, 2011 was a bittersweet day for South Africa. For many, it was a day of mourning as Albertina Sisulu – the great anti-apartheid activist, husband of the late activist and leader Walter Sisulu, and good friend of Nelson Mandela – was buried after passing away the week before. However, Sisulu was 92 and had lived an amazing and influential life that helped shape today’s South Africa. I certainly believe the day was a celebration of her life and accomplishments more than a day to mourn and I personally believe she would have wanted the country to celebrate the anniversary of the WC and be proud of what South Africa accomplished.

And many did. SABC showed several matches as well as a World Cup special on Saturday night. Articles in the local papers and stories on the local radio stations remembered last year fondly. The majority would love to turn back time and relive the excitement of last June (which I can understand – winter is much better with the World Cup).

I don’t know if the investment SA made in stadiums, roads, additional security, etc… will give an ROI that economists would approve of, but I must say, the people I talked to and the South Africa I have seen in 2011 thinks it was worth it. My colleagues and friends are proud to be part of a nation that hosted such an exciting and successful event. They feel as if they have proven themselves. The people are more confident and believe they can compete on a global scale in just about anything. South Africa’s membership in the exclusive BRICS club and President Zuma leading the conversation about a “Cape to Cairo” trade agreement are two recent examples of how SA is continuing propel itself into the global spotlight.

For me, though, one year later, the most exciting and important outcome of the World Cup is that the people I’ve spoken to feel closer and more united as a country. South Africa has its challenges and is far from being a utopia, but I for one feel lucky to have been part of an incredible 2010 World Cup and to continue to get to know a country with so much heart and potential.

A short video on the Emzingo program that Andrew started up in South Africa.

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