Guest Post: A View From the Ground, After The Games Have Finished

My friend, Adam: gracious host, South African transplant (going on 5 years now), and all around awesome person, has contributed many guest posts over the last year in the build up to the World Cup. You’ll also notice him in the photo album posted earlier.  Now he has offered his thoughts on the perspective on the ground, 5-6 weeks since the games have ended.  Look to Adam to provide some additional perspective on the feeling in the country 6 months, and perhaps even a year from now. Thanks Adam! You’re the B-E-S-T best!

By Adam Boros

Johannesburg, South Africa – Despite the fact that July 11th was only five weeks ago, it seems like months since the World Cup ended. The only obvious reminders of the tournament are the odd posters that have yet to be taken down, the few cars on the road that still fly a national flag or the stragglers that stubbornly continue to rock their Bafana jersey on Fridays. At times this can be depressing – the speed with which the tournament came and left was incredible – but having been here for those 31 days was truly special. It was a month that I will never forget for as long as I live.

I moved to South Africa just a few months after the country won the right to host the World Cup. So my entire time in South Africa has, in some way, been shaped by the tournament. For six years, I watched as preparations were made. I saw the stadiums go from nothing to magnificence. I dealt with the traffic caused by the amazing amount of construction being completed. I heard the nay-sayers (both here and abroad) telling the country it could never be done in Africa. But more than anything, I felt the excitement of the tournament steadily grow within me. It would be an exaggeration to say that I was obsessed with the World Cup, but the amount of time and energy I spent thinking about it could certainly have led to unreal expectations.

In fact, it did. I had totally unrealistic expectations of what the tournament meant and would be. I not only expected to have one of the best months of my life personally, I also believed that the Cup would change South Africa for the better, forever. And the most amazing thing, as I look back, is that all of my expectations were met. The World Cup was everything I ever hoped it would be and more. It was beautiful.

The Morning of the Opening

From a personal side, I have never had so much fun for such an extended period of time. Imagine spending a month of your life where you never have to ask yourself even once: ‘What should I do today’? There was always something happening, whether at and around the stadiums, at bars and restaurants or at the fan parks. And most importantly, everyone I came into contact with was, very simply, happy. This is the best thing about the World Cup. Thousands of people from all over the world converge on a country for a month. They come to watch football, and to sing, and to dance, and to laugh, and to meet new people, and to be happy. There is no way to describe the feelings of love, friendship and positivity that saturated South Africa during the tournament. By some accounts, crime in Johannesburg dropped by 60-70% during the month. I repeat: in one of the most dangerous cities in the world (by some measures), a soccer tournament led to a 60-70% drop in crime. There are many reasons this happened, including an increased police presence, tight security and extremely efficient World Cup courts. But there is no doubt in my mind that much of this drop can be attributed to the simple fact that the World Cup brings out the best in people. It connects people – human to human – in a way that I have never seen.

Before US-Algeria

This was never more clear to me than before the US-Algeria group match in Pretoria. I was somewhat apprehensive about how the dynamics between the Algerian and American fans would play out. Given the United States’ relationship with the Muslim world over the past decade, I had my doubts that the same fun-loving competitive spirit I had seen would persist. But these doubts were almost immediately allayed as my friends and I – in full American regalia – strolled past a group of about 50 Algerian fans on the street. Several of the Algerians ran over to us with their cameras and we ended up taking group photos. In most cases, we were not able to communicate beyond a few basic phrases, but the warmth with which we interacted was undeniable. Inside the stadium, we sat next to a group of 20-something Algerians and spent the entire match talking trash. Thoughts of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and ‘on terror’ could not have been further from any of our minds. We were just a bunch of football lovers, proudly representing the places of our birth.

Pride. This was another wonderful component of the World Cup. I am by no means ashamed of being American, but given the actions of our Government and behaviour of our politicians since September 11th, it has been a difficult time to look on my country with pride. During the World Cup, however, I was intensely, proudly American. I painted my face. I wore my custom-designed makarapa as often as possible (one of the better investments I’ve ever made by the way). I sang songs and screamed ‘U-S-A’ as loud as possible. It was a joy. And I am sure that people from other countries felt the same joy. Whatever hang-ups or misgivings or concerns or problems one might have with their country, it didn’t matter. We just wanted to see our boys win. (As a side note: when we scored in injury time to beat Algeria and go through to the second round was one of the most ecstatic moments of my life, as captured pretty much perfectly by this picture.)

After US-Algeria

Add to these experiences and emotions the fact that more than ten of my friends from around the world came to visit, and it was unforgettable. For several days after July 11th, I had trouble concentrating or motivating myself to get to work. I had post-World Cup depression.

The personal impact that the tournament had on me, however, was nothing compared to what it meant for South Africa. Several weeks before the opening match, I read an editorial by a South African guy who had emigrated to England several years ago. I do not remember much of the article, but at the end he explained why he had finally decided to come home for the World Cup after months of debate. He said that he was coming ‘to see the South Africa of my dreams.’ That is exactly what I saw. For those who have spent any significant time here, it is obvious that the country faces countless, incredibly complex problems. Most of these problems, in one way or another, are connected to race, inequality and the legacy of apartheid. South Africa remains deeply divided, with extraordinary amounts of ignorance, fear, mistrust and outright hatred existing across race and class lines.

So as I watched Mary Fitzgerald Square in downtown Johannesburg slowly fill up on June 11th with Blacks, Whites, Indians and Coloureds all wearing South African gear, it was clear something special was happening. And from the moment that Siphiwe Tshabalala scored against Mexico and the entire country exploded, there was no denying that, perhaps for the first time, South Africa was truly united. For the rest of the month, long after Bafana had been eliminated, South Africans of every colour and income-level celebrated together and hosted the world in spectacular fashion.

It was this hosting that I believe will have the longest-lasting, most important impact on South Africa. On the last night before one of my friends left, I asked her how she felt about her time in the country. She told me that before arriving, she did not even want to come. After reading horror stories about crime and violence in the European press, as well as God knows how many afro-pessimist articles, she was not looking forward to the trip. She thought she would be constantly worried about her safety and afraid to do much of anything. What she found could not have been more different, and she cannot wait to come back.

It is people like her that will impact South Africa for years to come. Hundreds of thousands of tourists flocked into the country (by some estimates, more than a million). They pumped more than a billion dollars into the economy and many will return at some point in the future. More importantly, the vast majority of them went home and raved about the people they met and the places they saw.

This, one person at a time, will help to change not only the world’s perception of South Africa, but of the continent as a whole. That will be the greatest legacy of the 2010 World Cup. Africa successfully hosted the largest sporting event in the world (for those of us who saw the support for Ghana first-hand, there is no doubt that this was Africa’s Cup). And along the way, millions – if not billions – of people saw that Africa is not about war or starvation or Big Men or crushing poverty. Those things, of course, do exist and will continue to hold the continent back. But Africa is actually about laughter and kindness and smiles and music and noise and good food and treating people as they should be treated. And it will never be the same after the World Cup.

See you in Brazil in 2014.

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My World Cup Photos

World Cup 2010

Click on photo for full album

Guest Post: A view from the ground with less than 2 weeks to go!

My dear friend Adam Boros has written some guest posts for this blog over the last year.  He has lived in Johannesburg for the last five years and has had a first row seat to the build up (both physical and emotional) to the World Cup during that time period.  Below, he provides his perspective, with the games now fewer than two weeks away!

By Adam Boros

May 30, 2010

Johannesburg, South Africa – 14 days. For those of us in South Africa who have watched a countdown that started somewhere over 1,000, the fact that the World Cup kicks off two weeks from today is surreal. The long wait is nearing its conclusion and to say that we are excited is a comical understatement. The country is infected with football fever and it is difficult to spend an hour without hearing or seeing or feeling some reminder of the biggest sporting event in the world. It is difficult for me to put into words the emotions that I am feeling in the final stretch because I have rarely been this excited for any kind of event in my life. So I will settle for a few musings…

  • Fridays – like today – are the best day of the week. For the past few months, South Africa has celebrated Football Fridays every week, when people are encouraged to fly the South African flag wherever and however they can and wear a Bafana Bafana jersey. It has been amazing to see how each week, more and more South Africans don the yellow or green Bafana jersey or affix a flag to their car (or strap SA flag covers on their sideview mirrors in an especially stylish display). Perhaps most amazingly, the people that you least expect to be demonstrating their love of soccer and the national team seem to be the most ardent supporters of the day. Soccer in South Africa is undoubtedly a ‘black’ sport, with few whites showing much interest in local teams or games. But on Friday, elderly white women and big, rugby-loving Afrikaners are proudly Bafana Bafana. Not to mention politicians – it is an entertaining (and refreshing) site to see the national president wearing a soccer jersey to important meetings and events.
  • For those of you who have seen Invictus (which I did not really care for), you will understand that sport has often played an important role in race relations here. In that tradition, the World Cup is already having some unexpected benefits for racial reconciliation in the country. Due to the need to keep football pitches pristine, the best rugby team in the country (the Blue Bulls) was forced to shift its home semifinal of an important tournament from Pretoria to Soweto last week Saturday. Moving a sporting event from one stadium to another less than an hour away would hardly be front page news in most places around the world. But this represented the first premier league professional rugby match ever to be played in a black township. The political and social importance of this event is difficult to overstate, and difficult to understand for anyone who has not spent significant time in the country. To see busloads of Afrikaners flooding into Soweto – a place that I can safely say only a tiny minority had ever ventured into – was a beautiful site. As the captain of the Blue Bulls said after the game, it was a perfect display of “how far we have come since 1994.” And without the World Cup, it would not have happened.
  • Several months ago, I wrote how I was surprised at how little World Cup advertising was visible around Johannesburg. This is definitely no longer a problem. The other day, as I was driving from one meeting to another across the endless sprawl that is Joburg, I decided to count any World Cup-related advertising that I came across. I drove for probably about 60 kms in total, and never went more than 1 kilometer without seeing a poster, mural or advertisement that mentioned the World Cup in some way. The tournament, without any doubt, is unavoidable!
  • The argument that South Africa will reap huge economic benefits from the World Cup is certainly debatable (although I read an article this week that a recent study showed the country’s GDP will increase by an impressive 0.5% from the tournament alone). But I have been especially surprised (and even shocked) at how tightly FIFA controls every last component of the tournament, and stifles local economic enrichment in the process. Without any doubt, the most tragic example of this is the barring of local people selling local food at the stadiums during games (tragic for both the locals and the tourists!). But there is no question that the infrastructural improvements that will last long after July 11 are a huge boon to the country. Although I do not think there is a single Joburger who is not incredibly sick of huge traffic jams, reduced speed limits and reroutes and detours, when all is said and done the new road network, public transport systems and other improvements will make the country a better place to work and live.
  • They may have less utility, but the most impressive infrastructure projects are certainly the stadiums. All of the new World Cup stadiums are beautiful and state-of-the-art. Last Saturday, I had the privilege of attending the first ever match to be played at Soccer City. It was a tournament final between two less popular local teams that would normally draw a crowd of a few thousand. On Saturday there were 80,000. If ever there was a stadium to draw a crowd more easily than the participating teams, this is it. It is truly world-class, and the helicopter shots of the ‘Calabash’ with Johannesburg in the background were absolutely beautiful. I went again last night for the first Bafana match to be played there and the atmosphere was unreal. Pure joy, excitement and noise for 90 minutes.

And on June 11th, just 14 days from now, the entire country will be blowing their vuvuzelas, sporting their national jerseys, singing to their hearts content and fighting back tears of joy as Mexico and Bafana kick-off at Soccer City. Of all the official slogans used by FIFA over the past few years, there is only one that truly captures what this tournament means. For too long, Africa is only in the news due to civil war, starvation and poverty. I believe that the 2010 World Cup will be the first time that the entire world will, and must, ‘celebrate Africa’s humanity.’

Woza June 11!!!

Guest Post: Compton Kids in South Africa? Let’s help them get there!

Compton Kids in South Africa?

By Mike Herman, President & Founder Compton United Soccer Club

Kids from Compton don’t usually get around much.  Some haven’t been two hours away to the mountains.  Some haven’t even been to the beach 20 minutes away.

So how is it possible that 10 Compton kids are planning to go to the other side of the globe to Johannesburg, South Africa?

In one word… soccer (or futbol, football, etc.).

Soccer is undeniably, the most universal and popular sport in the world.  It is played everywhere.  From the dirt fields of South America to the plains of Kenya, to the slums of Liverpool where the game was founded, anyone can be a “footballer”.  The game does not discriminate by age, size, race, creed, color or socioeconomic status.

Sports in general, and soccer specifically, can be a powerful tool to bring communities together – communities like Compton and Mamelodi, a poor suburb outside of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Our Compton United kids are meeting up with African kids in Mamelodi to play in the Hope Cup Tournament. Bridge to Cross (the organization that has brought the model of Boys and Girls Clubs to South Africa) hosts this annual tournament.  The Compton United Boy’s Under 15 team will participate with 16 other international youth teams in a week- long celebration of youth and hope.

Jose Hernandez, Captain of U15 team

Jose Hernandez, the Captain of the Compton United U15 team is excited about the trip.  He says,

“I am excited because we will show other kids that not only professionals can travel around the world but we can as well.  The best thing about going to South Africa is that we all get to have a new experience in soccer, and we get to visit a new place that none of us have been, and learn about a different culture”.

The main mission of Compton United and Bridge to Cross goes far more  just soccer games.  Soccer is a tremendous tool for youth and leadership development; this lies at the heart of the two organizations.  Hope Cup players will also participate in a large community service project, as they help repair and build a school in Mamelodi.  They will also visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and have discussions on race in their cultures.

Compton and Mamelodi are quite different but also very similar.  They both have kids full of potential but limited on resources. They both have teens and young adults that have lost most, if not all, the hope they had as children. They are also both communities devastated by poverty, hunger, homelessness, sickness, crime and despair.

The Hope Cup players will see firsthand how hope can transform people and ultimately transform communities.

The players and staff are tremendously excited about this trip.  It will be life changing for everyone.

However, funding has been slow and everyone is working hard to bring in investors for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For more information on the trip, please visit, http://tr.im/cuscwc2010b

For more information on the fund raising, please visit, http://tr.im/cuscwc2010

Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.  -Christopher Reeve

About the Author:

Mike Herman is the President and Founder of the Compton United Soccer Club in Compton, CA.

Compton United Soccer Club was created to fill the absence of sanctioned, quality youth soccer programs in the inner city.

The Compton United Mission Statement:

Our Mission: Through the sport of soccer and the resources of US Soccer, develop a new generation of leaders who excel in all aspects of life: mentally, physically, socially, spiritually, and emotionally, to ultimately help develop our community into a model of social, economic and spiritual transformation.

For more information see www.comptonunited.org or email Mike at mike.herman@comptonunited.org or follow Mike on Twitter @urbanfocus

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Tragedy in Angola; Effects on South Africa?

The African Nations Cup, the bi-annual tournament, taking place in Angola this year was supposed to open the celebration of football on the continent.  Though not related, it was regarded as a wonderful prelude to the World Cup in South Africa, coming up later in the year. However, as many readers likely know, before a single ball was kicked, the tournament began in tragedy.  As reported on ESPNSoccernet.com, on January 9th,

“Gunmen in an area plagued by separatist violence used machine guns to open fire Friday on a bus carrying Togo’s national soccer team to a tournament in this southwest African country, killing the driver and wounding at least nine people, including two players.”

Reports are still coming in, but it has now been confirmed that there have been at least 3 deaths.  After initially wanting to carry on and play in the tournament, the Togo national team has pulled out and will be returning to Togo on Sunday via presidential plane.

This is an absolute tragedy for all of the players, families, players involved, and a blow to the footballing world.  And in light of the upcoming World Cup, what was supposed to be a celebration leading up to the event has been transformed into a time of mourning.  However, I do hope that the words, if not the attitude, spoken by Danny Jordaan of the World Cup organizing committee, are taken to heart by the global community.  Jordaan, one of the leading advocates for the World Cup and South Africa has asked the world to make the distinction between Angola and South Africa rather than let the event cast a shadow over the entire continent.  As reported on ESPN,

Jordaan offered his sympathies to Nations Cup hosts Angola, admitting the bus attack was a blow for the country but re-iterated his frustrations with the world “tainting” South Africa with the same brush.

“I feel very sorry for the Angolans because they have spent billions on fixing up their cities and building infrastructure for this tournament. This was going to be the event that would mark their transition from decades of war to a new social and economic order. In that context, it’s a blow.”

“The world must be balanced and must not apply different standards when it comes to the African continent. Our World Cup is secure and we are confident because we have employed a lot of resources to safeguard the event in our country.”

I generally agree with Jordaan and hope that the tragedy in Angola does not mar people’s perceptions of South Africa.  I have to believe the games will be secure and safe.  However, these events harshly remind us of the difficulties on the Continent as well as the rest of the World.

But I hope that the world, fans, sponsors, etc. take the attitude of Didier Drogba, the striker for the Ivory Coast, when he says:

“People have an opinion of Africa and it is not so good, but we have to let sport unite us all…They see us as being behind the rest of the world in financial and in sporting terms, but this year give us a chance to show people a different Africa. “Africa has some problems, we all know that, but we all have a chance to make 2010 the special year that puts this continent on the sporting map forever. We have this Africa Cup of Nations and then there is the big prize of the World Cup.”

Here here.  The World Cup is Africa’s games, not just South Africa, and has the potential to elevate the Continent as a whole.  I just hope that the opportunity isn’t lost, that the rest of the African Nation’s Cup brings joy, and the world’s game can be fully celebrated in Africa. May we all unite around the Togo national team.

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Guest Post: Dzcus-sion on why WorldCup2010 in South Africa will be one of the best ever

I’ve written about the great new wiki Dzcus_Worldcup a few times on this blog now.  Well, recently I had the chance to talk with Matthew, the creator of the site.  We had a lovely conversation and he was kind enough to write a guest post to provide his perspective on the site, the purpose, and other thoughts.

Thanks Matthew!  His post follows:

_________________________________________________________________________________________

I recently launched a Q&A website on South Africa and the World Cup called dzcus worldcup2010 (As in ‘discuss’ the worldcup2010). The website aims to provide factual and relevant advice to the fans or tourists visiting South Africa during WorldCup2010.

John Kim who actively tweets and blogs about CSR and South Africa, found my website on the Internet based on a post I made and contacted me. We started talking and discovered many common interests and goals.  He invited me to contribute to this blog as a guest.  I am very flattered and excited that John found value in my idea and that he is interested in having me introduce my wiki to some of the influential readers that visit his blog.

To start with, my site is not a discussion forum.  The key difference here is  that the community gets to vote on all the question and answers, the idea being that the wisdom of crowds is better the knowledge of a few. The best (or most voted) answers and questions flow up to the top where they are easily found and the users that post the best questions and answers are rewarded by what is called reputation points.  The voting and the reputation built up over time, authenticates and gives the answers a level of validity that you could not associate to a simple answer culled from an Internet search.

So why did I create this? I created this site because contrary to all the alarmist, sensationalist naysayers out there( guardian.co.ukNew York Times included),  I think this World Cup is going to be one of the greatest ever and I wanted to be a part of it. I also feel that it provides an opportunity for ‘ordinary’ South Africans to tell you how it really is.

This year Woodstock featured a lot in the news in celebration of its 40th anniversary. When I think of World Cup 2010, I think of it as the Woodstock of our generation.  Yes there is going to be mud but it is also going to be a social, culture and economic pivotal moment that will be talked about by our children and our children’s children.  After all football and rock & roll share a common philosophy, in that it is mainly about having a great party and having a good time.

This is not just an optimistic statement I just made and my reasoning behind this is not the amazing goals I know that Lionel Messi is going to score, or because South Africa is a beautiful country, or the diski dance, or the delicious South African wines, or Kruger national park or because of the best efforts of the Organizers. The reason is that this is World Cup2.0, South Africa could not have picked a more opportune time to host the World Cup.  Social 2.0 technologies have matured and their adoption has reached tipping point. What this means is that this event is going blogged, tweeted, facebooked, youtubed, ninged, and visualized on a scale that has never been seen before. The whole world will socialize and interact this event, and we are all going to be there. Permanent lasting memories will be captured in unique ways and this is why this event this going to be so pivotal.

I also believe that this event will have a lasting social impact on Africa. World Cup 2010 because of all this priceless Social2.0 publicity is going drive tourism and business up in South Africa for years to come.  Social issues of the African continent will become more visible and the more “net-izens” around the globe get involved, the better the chances of some of the continent’s problems being solved.  I strongly believe that technology is great equalizer and game changer.  In today’s web 2.0 world the small time entrepreneur is as visible and as connected as the largest companies.  I would go even further to assert that the small entrepreneur is at an advantage because he does not have the costs associated with the large enterprise and also because large companies just don’t understand the new paradigms. I was able to launch this, connect with like minded individuals like John  and market this to my audience on a very tight bootstrap budget all within three weeks, something I would not have been able to do  even a year back.  Of course to capitalize on this, people need to be educated and that is an area the South African Government should really focus on.

My site is http://worldcup2010.dzcus.com, keep an eye out on it.  I am looking for sponsors and partners for the site, if you are interested please contact me at mmathew  @ dzcus.com.  You can also follow me on twitter; my twitter tag is @mathaix and @dzcus_worldcup.

Mathew Mathew

Founder dzcus.com

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Chats with Dzcus WorldCup and Mike from Compton United

I recently had the pleasure to have phone (in-real-life, I know… amazing) conversations with two folks I’ve connected with through the blog and Twitter.  Those folks are @Dzcuz_worldcup and Mike Herman, aka @urbanfocus, CEO of the wonderful organization, Compton United.

Dzcus_worldcup, started a really wonderful wiki for South Africa and World Cup related subjects which can be found here: http://worldcup2010.dzcus.com/ It’s a forum where anyone can ask and answer questions related to the games; questions ranging from logistics i.e. where to stay in Capetown to what the hell “Bafana Bafana” (the name of the South African National team) means!

It’s a great resource and I hope it will continue to grow and be useful.  Look out for a future post from @Dzcuz_worldcup who may introduce some ways to use the Wiki for CSR and social/good purposes!

comptonunited

via comptonunited.org

The same evening I talked to Mike Herman, CEO of Compton United, a wonderful organization in the Compton, Los Angeles area, that uses youth soccer as a youth and community development tool.  They are a really remarkable organization and I’m excited to continue talking with Mike about ways to integrate what they’re doing with some other other social enterprise and World Cup related things.

Also look out for a future contribution from Mike about Compton United and their plans to be in South Africa during the World Cup.

Man, the internet can be used for good things!

 

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