World Cup Report: The Scene in South Africa

The Cape Town City Hall is one of those quintessentially lovely colonial-era buildings whose gracefulness comfortably conceals the painful history it’s stone was carved out of. Today two banners honoring Mandela hung draped between the neo-classical columns adorning it’s entrance. On the curved railing in between the two silk screened Mandela’s, perched a small Africa made of red neon glass that hung like a heart that forgot to keep beating because it was so enjoying the opportunity to glow.

Watching Ghana vs Uruguay in Cape Town

When Sulley Muntari twirled around and struck what seemed like an impossible goal for Ghana as the first half closed, a luminescence ran through the thousands of people from around the world assembled in front of the Cape Town City Hall to watch the match together outside on a theater-sized screen. When Sebastian Abreu’s penalty kick found the back of the net for Uruguay, we turned from a collective into a crowd. That is we stopped being together in the same way. Ghana had given us a kind of common hope, the impulse needed for disparate people – for strangers – to share. As the match ended, thousands of people turned around and simply walked away, more alone than we’d been a few moments before.

Leaving the square, I thought of how the game has the capacity to alter some of the very textures of life. This part of why it’s so great. Why it means so much. Why it couldn’t instill the same joy were it not for the loss and the loneliness echoing out from in front of City Hall, down Darling Street, in Cape Town tonight.

Celebration after Ghana Scores

I’ve only been in South Africa a few days and as such my impressions are cursory and broken at best. It seems to me however, that what Ghana’s success means to people in South Africa has been misunderstood. “The African World Cup.” The phrase has been voiced over and over. When Bafana Bafana were knocked out of the tournament, proxies were searched for and somehow any African country was framed as an adequate symbol for both the host nation and an entire continent. But the reality here is much more complicated than a continent standing in for a country. People in South Africa started rooting for a number of squads once their own team didn’t advance. For example, Brazil is enormously popular throughout the country and was the team many South Africans started supporting once their team got knocked out. Being here has given me an even larger sense of what Messi means on the global scale, as a number of local people I’ve met are passionately rooting for Argentina because of the joy entailed in watching him play. Ghana frequently was the second team that South Africans were rooting for once their national team was knocked out.

Leaving the Square Just After Uruguay Wins and Is Celebrating on TV

It is true that in South Africa Ghana was widely and enthusiastically supported – but not as some kind of symbol. That wasn’t why so many were so disappointed tonight. The support here shown for Ghana, support shown by South Africans of all races, stems from a sense of affection not symbolism. And affection is at the heart of rooting on any football squad. It’s a core part of what makes the game so wonderful. What I’m trying to say is that the Ghanaian team didn’t garner it’s support because it was some default team for “Africans” to cheer on. Ghana earned it’s support here from the way that it played and the way that play layered onto a sense of local connection amplified by the desire to share in something the world hadn’t seen before. Most of all South Africans cheered on Ghana because they simply love the game and the shape of the heart isn’t a geometry that identity politics can architect, no matter how ornate the design that those politics attempts to create.

City Hall Cape Town, South Africa
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  1. Jnice
    July 2, 2010

    Great post, Euler.

    Hope you are enjoying your time.

    I’m starting to come to grips with the loss, but it’s hard. It truly is. I think the thing that kills me about this is that, it’s the World Cup and we can’t just say, “we’ll get ’em next year.” We have to wait 4 more years for this opportunity to come our way again and even so, qualification is not a guarantee. I think this is why I’m really, really bothered by the loss. I’ve been laying in bed for 6 hours now… I think it’s time to get up and do something.

    Thanks to all the people who were rooting for Ghana and thanks to all the people who showed sympathy for Ghana after this match. It means a lot to me, at least.

    At least we have to great matches to look forward to tomorrow. Bring it on.

  2. ML6
    July 2, 2010

    Great post, but i cant help but disagree. Ghana was representing africa as a continent, the people of south africa were rooting for ghana for that sole reason. The seemingly infinite posters which read; “Ghana, make africa proud.” were symbols of how the people felt. But what do i know? Your the one in SA. Hope your having a good time.

  3. Kxevin
    July 2, 2010

    Boy, I missed a lot during my blackout period (to avoid results, so I can watch fresh via DVR). What a pair of matches. First Brazil self-destructs, courtesy of Felipe Melo, then Uruguay pulls one out of the fire. Then Cruijff is no longer an honorary president, choosing to step down rather than keep arguing about it. Rosell contends that the honorary presidency “Doesn’t exist in the club statutes.” And now The Yaya is sold.


    1. Rosell is a weasel. He might have success as a club president, but he is a weasel. Cruijff never liked him, and I would guess that if Cruijff felt that the climate was right for him to retain the honorific, he wouldn’t have returned his badge to the freakin’ receptionist. Rosell is repaying an old score against someone who can’t really harm him now. Weasel.


    2. The Yaya had to go. I’ve read all the comments about what an error this is, blah, blah, blah. Fact of the matter is that for The Yaya to stay, Guardiola would have had to have made concessions that meant he might as well have handed over the coach’s whistle to The Yaya. No player gets playing time guarantees. That’s just nonsense. If you want more time, then earn it. If you don’t want to stay to earn it, then get out, and good luck to you.

    He wanted to leave, and got his wish. You can place it at the feet of ego, or petulance, or whatever. But what I don’t think that anyone can do is blame the club. The club wanted to keep him. Guardiola wanted to keep him. The Yaya didn’t want to stay, because he wanted playing time guarantees that were never, ever going to come. So enjoy watching Champions League on TV this season.

    I also want to say hooey to the “The Yaya is light years better than Busquets” stuff. Not true. He is different, and even preferable in some matches. But he made his choice. Simple as that.

    Now I have to root against Spain and Argentina, so that we can get our lads home early, preparing for what is going to be an intense season. Sorry folks, but a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.

    P.S. I HATE Holland. Diving, fouling, whining, even more than Brazil, which is saying something. Robben should be ashamed of himself, but I’m sure he isn’t.

    Jnice: My condolences. So close. The miss of Essien was ultimately huge, but the Black Stars shone brightly, and shone well.

    • Reagan
      July 2, 2010

      Agree completely on the weasel comments.

      Agree on the Yaya situation too. There is no way Pep could have guaranteed Yaya more time and even if he did, what precedent does that set? anyone who wants to play more, threaten to leave? upset the dressing room? No ways! None of that! Let’s be realistic here, that shmuck Seluk wouldn’t have said all he said if Toure wasn’t wiling him on. Yaya doesn’t want to leave with a bad taste in the barca fans mouths. These agents happily accept being the hated ones especially when you make a 6m commission!!! 6m commission for Seluk? is that just wrong on so many levels??? what a shmuck!

      Same story with Cesc, only difference is his agent doesn’t have the cahoneys to stand up and say ‘My client wants to leave, Mr Wenger’. Cesc will put down his transfer request as soon as he’s back. It is inevitable. Not many fancy it. but i do 🙂 love the guy

    • July 2, 2010

      I don’t think so on Fabregas. I think that sitting on the bench, watching Xaviniesta play is sticking in his craw. I think, judging from his most recent comments, that he has another season (at least) at Arsenal, and will leave with Wenger next season (if that rumor is true).

      Thanks to the deal with Seluk, it is incumbent upon him to keep his player moving. I give him two seasons at Citeh before Seluk is at it again. Yachts aren’t getting any cheaper, you know.

      The Yaya is almost as big a weasel as Rosell (um, wait a minute. Even a real weasel isn’t as big a weasel as Rosell). But still, man up, come out and say you want to leave. His departure leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but not because of the loss of a player. I think the fans who supported him, and the club that made him a star, deserved better. Players should speak for themselves. Maicon gained huge points in my book when he came right out and said that he wanted to go to play for Mourinho at EE. Make no mistake, this is what I want. You have to respect that. Be a stand-up guy. If the transfer doesn’t work out, you take some stick from the fans until you start kicking ass and taking nanes again.

      But handle your business. It’s why I’m not the biggest fan of any Fabregas deals. Don’t weasel it up. Speak your mind, then let the clubs deal with it. I understand the necessary bet hedging, but I don’t like it. At all.

    • Reagan
      July 2, 2010

      Word on Yaya. Love the guy but but for all the man-mountain that he is, he doesn’t have the courtesy to say it himself. That’s the least you should do when people love you as much as the barca fan do. Hleb is a different case because we’re indifferent about his existence in our team. Yaya had a very valid claim – I’m good enough, work hard enough, practice hard enough to be in the first team. Indeed. but you should have just said it yourself mate! Weak!

      Kxevin, true that the bench warming must be running through Cesc’s mind but there are higher forces of nature in play here – Rosell seems to have a very Catalan approach and the ultimate feather in his cap at the start will be the fabregas signing. We are prudent on this site and suggest that we shouldn’t pay over the top for him but the fans sitting at home in Barcelona, the fans who pay to watch matches at the camp nou week in week out, the fans who voted Rosell to a landslide victory don’t care about the money that goes into this negotiation. absolutely not! They just want their prodigal son and when he comes the camp nou would be filled to the rafter to welcome him.

      On this site, I see a more pragmatic reasoning and understandably so, but there is little room for it when it come to a negotiation like this. There are so many other emotions attached here – his best friends are here, his family is here, he wants to be enjoying this glory period with Pique, Messi and Villa, Pep, his mentor is in-charge, Pep will tweak his system again this season to fit him in.

      Pep’s will be done.

    • Jnice
      July 3, 2010

      Thanks, Kxevin. So close indeed.

  4. July 2, 2010

    But wait, there’s more. Andoni Zubizarreta is the Txiki B replacement. And at the press conference announcing his position, sporting vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu said “Our objective is for him [Fabregas] to become a Barcelona player this summer.”

    It will never end. Rosell has said that he won’t go “crazy” over Fabregas, which is good.

  5. Bebop
    July 2, 2010

    Great post.
    I watched the match on rerun a few hours after the match.. although I’ve already know the result, watching the game itself, it makes me sad for the ghana team..
    I’m not really a fan of any african nations, but I was rooting for them because they were the only african team left.
    It’s heart breaking, but what luis suarez did, maybe every profesional football player in that moment and time would’ve done the same thing.. so congrats to them as well..
    My condolences for all the ghana fans. Hope you guys held your heads high.

  6. Lev
    July 3, 2010

    “P.S. I HATE Holland. Diving, fouling, whining, even more than Brazil, which is saying something. Robben should be ashamed of himself, but I’m sure he isn’t.”

    Fair enough, but to say we were doing this more than Brazil is simply not true. Robinho, Maicon and Kaká in particular were whining a whole lot. Not to mention that an obvious part of Brazil’s game plan was trying to foul Robben out of the game, and this was before Melo kicked him twice in one tackle and then stamped on his legs when he was finally down.

    I am happy that Robben is Dutch cause he’s a brilliant player but I have never liked him either. Having said that, I struggle to think of the last time he dived (as opposed to making the most out of a foul actually committed), something he used to do a whole lot earlier in his career.

    Like I said I don’t like the guy and if I felt you were right I would have no problem admitting it, but on the contrary the team should be proud after coming back from an abysmal first half and beating Brazil at their own game and especially Robben. Bastos should already have received a second yellow card when Dunga pulled him out, something not only noted by myself but also by the British commentator and pretty much everybody in the bar in which I was watching the game (none of whom were Dutch and most of whom were supporting Brazil. You are saying a player who made a defensively very strong BRAZIL replace his direct opponent should be ashamed of himself? Please…

    Luck played its role and it was definitely in our favor, but still we fought like lions today. Brazil should have buried us in the first half but failed to do so.

    Kxev I believe you know your history based on which one could be expected to give Holland a break as far as the hate goes.

    More so than most other countries we have over the last 40 years attempted to win by playing beautiful football (even though it wasn’t always beautiful the intention has always been there). We only have one European Cup to show for it.

    The last tournament we were in we came out of the group of death with 9 goals scored and 1 conceded, handing both Italy and France their biggest defeats in 25 years. It sure was beautiful. And then we lacked the mentality and organization to beat Russia. Story of our lives.

    For once we have a group of players who sure love flowing attacking football (it is in our DNA after all) but yet insist that winning is more important and thus will do anything and everything to win.

    By your own admission Brazil fouls, dives and whines and what, you expect us to go out like lambs? Brazil have 180 million people to draw their national team from, we are 16.5 million strong. You say we fouled, dived and whined I say we gave as good as we got. Or are these rights reserved only to South American teams (and Italy and Portugal)? Any country our size would be respected for reaching the semis by knocking out Brazil no matter how they did it.

    So while you hate my country’s team if you want, the tens of Brazilians I spoke with after the game were impressed by the fight we put up to come back from 0-1. And of course annoyed by their own teams’ incapability to deal with said fight. They also wished for Holland to finally win the World Cup. Something about we should have had one or two already, contributions to world football, our orange shirts and oh, what is it again?…Ah, yes, our shared passion for joga bonita 😉

    • July 3, 2010

      you’re right Lev.
      too be honest im tired of the beautiful football too.
      it doesnt win you trophies these days.

      kxevin, i think van bommel is far worse than robben.
      but lev, not just bastos shoulve been red carded, van bommel too.
      i have no clue how he stayed on the pitch without any warning.
      notice how alves was preaching to the ref in japanese on the number of times van bommel made a tackle? that was a funny sight.
      but man..i hate van bommel so much. cant stand him.

      and i think its high time van marwijk aka 007 benches van persie. he by far worse than torres.

      ps. were robinho and robben never cool with each other?

    • Kxevin
      July 3, 2010

      I don’t hate Holland, Lev. Not even all of the NT. Just a big chunk of it. I think that an unfortunate tone was set with the early antics, and guys flying around as if they’d been shot for something vaguely approximating contact. The super slo-mo replays were very illustrative, and frankly, damning.

      I love what Robben does as a player, but he has to start playing straight up to have me respect it. I have never liked Van Bommel, and almost certainly never will. Sneijder? ‘Nuff said.

      I think they have what it takes to win the whole thing, having said all that.

  7. Lev
    July 3, 2010

    oops jogo bonito. im tired lol

  8. Jose
    July 3, 2010

    Thanks, Kev, for bringing up the Dutch’s diving and time-delaying crap. Because everybody does it, and it’s about time that the Europeans stop accusing the Latin Americans of being the only ones doing this.

    It’s not right, and it has to stop. But apparently it only counts when we do it.

  9. Jnice
    July 3, 2010

    Regarding Yaya, Pep said some revealing things today.

    “I can only wish him well. His departure is not good news, I would have preferred him to stay, and he knows that, but it’s his decision, he wanted to leave and not a matter of keeping someone who doesn’t want to stay. I have to him his years here, especially the last two that I have enjoyed with him and without him it would have been difficult to achieve all that we won. He is very versatile. I hope he finds the place in Manchester that he has not found here. He is a high level player, an extraordinary person and I have done everything possible for him to continue.”

    My translation may be a bit off.

    Also, on the question of Ibra’s future, he said, “Ibra doesn’t worry me at all because he is a Barça player.”

    So, Pep obviously wanted Yaya to continue, but Yaya wanted to seek new challenges, and he said as much in his interview on the Manchester City website. (Fantastic website, btw) As for Ibra, his words confirm what most of us already knew; Ibra is not for sale.

    • July 3, 2010

      Jnice, I said during the season that one of the reasons Yaya is not performing may be the fact that his head was already at Man city. He wanted to move last summer, then if you go back to the news of that period there were lot of mess at man city after changing the coach, which probably means that Yaya’s brother advised him to stay where he is for now. He stayed. But every time he was asked about the EPL in any interview you could see his face shining with a smile. He just love that league and he loves to play in the same team with his brother. He felt he did everything possible with Barca and its the perfect age for him to seek a new challenge. Something I understand and believe its right. Good luck for him.

      The club committed no foul fulfilling his wish and moving forward.

  10. July 3, 2010

    Is it only my internet browser who keep directing me to the same old page that say:”Milan plans to sign Ibra” every day I visit the site?

    I wonder what they are publishing today…

    • Kxevin
      July 3, 2010

      Ha! They’re still trying to run him out of town, it appears. The Gamper opponent will be AC Milan, which should be an interesting homecoming for Ronaldinho.

  11. andrew.M
    July 3, 2010

    for all of you who bitched about the diving of busi and others and caled him a cheat… he is nothing compared to the cheating @#$R@ that is luis suarez.

    so i am wondering why i dont see anyone truly moaning about what he did, perhaps its only because it wasnt against barca but come on have some consistency.

    • Vj
      July 3, 2010

      “He did what he had to”

      Well so does Busi!

  12. marce
    July 3, 2010

    I was at the Ghana V Uruguay game and at todays Spain V Paraguay match in Johannesburg!!! i was sitting on the side of the goals and of the penalty kicks for the URU game in the corner Forlan ran too to celebrate, reppin them surrounded by 82000 Ghana fans EPIC. The first half of todays game was miserable but im glad Villa pulled it out for us and that Iniesta got ma of the match while i was sporting the jersey… too bad Casillas probably deserved that title more today even tho it pains my heart to say it.

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