Viewpoint: Thank you for the World Cup memories

South Africa supporters celebrate after midfielder teammate Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the opening goal against Mexico World Cup fever gripped the nation from start to finish

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Zimbabwean filmmaker and columnist Farai Sevenzo looks back on Africa's World Cup and wonders what will come of the continent's teenage nation.

It began with Siphiwe Tshabalala's goal against the Mexicans, a kick of ferocious power and poetry.

And after years of preparation this old land where so much battle has occurred, where folklore was found on spilled blood and resistance, gave way to the idea that South Africa was, in her new reality, just 16 years old.

Start Quote

We are all feeling a little deflated, like vuvuzelas with no wind”

End Quote Farai Sevenzo

And like a teenager eager to show her qualities, the football World Cup of 2010 was her crowning moment.

A week or so into the tournament, I travelled to South Africa on one of those incompetent airlines only the desperate file into because the question bugged me - would I see another World Cup on African soil in my lifetime?

And over Angolan airspace I bugged the air hostess to ask the captain what the score was in the South Africa v France game.

Air traffic control in Luanda came back to the captain and said South Africa 2 - 0 France and a plane load of Argentineans, Spanish, German and African travellers applauded.

'Feel it'

But then we landed to a cold Johannesburg night to see downcast faces.

France had pegged one back in the time we took to land and South Africa were out on goal difference and a scarcity of victories.

The immigration officer apologised, but reminded me this World Cup was still African and stamped my passport.

When would the drama end?

All across Johannesburg it was obvious this teenager of a nation had undergone an incredible transformation.

Fireworks light up the sky over Soccer City stadium after the 2010 Fifa World Cup final What will happen to these magnificent stadiums?

After years of being ripped off by taxis from Oliver Tambo International Airport, people were boarding a new train to the centre of the city for a quarter of the taxi price.

The hawkers on the motorways were darting in and out of moving traffic to sell flags of the competing nations and everywhere you looked, the World Cup fever had so gripped this nation that Bafana Bafana's gold colours seemed like a national uniform.

For the first time, the South Africans kept telling me, all South Africans have come together, people are conversing across colour divisions, we are incredibly proud of what we have achieved.

Everyone, it seems, had raised their game - from the police to the broadcasters to the boys and girls from advertising.

"Feel it," said the state broadcaster, "it is here."

And feel it we did.

Petulant behaviour

World Cup screenings by the fireplace were in every home, and as the African teams fell like dominoes, some dared to ask what was the point of having this event here if the Africans "could not represent" the continent?

Ivory Coast's striker Didier Drogba (right) gives his shoe to a supporter after the Group G first round 2010 World Cup football match Ivory Coast versus North Korea Even Drogba could not save his country from being kicked out

Nigeria drew the ire of President Goodluck Jonathan and many more Africans for playing every game as if it were a practise match, for throwing away leads and showing the kind of petulant behaviour that drew red cards and heartache.

How, asked someone, could this great nation of over 150m people not find 11 men to win a football match?

The aging Cameroon side squandered an indomitable lion reputation on the spent legs of their old stars.

And how obvious it was that the coaches had so little control of their superstar squads when the brilliant and young Alex Song was left on the bench in a final game that saw his ancient uncle Rigobert Song win a personal honour of being the only player to have played in four World Cup finals.

Spare us the personal milestones and win us a match.

Even the deadly Didier Drogba, so loved by Africa's young and dusty-footed raw talent, could do nothing to raise the Elephants from their group of death.

And so we were left with one great African hope, Ghana's young committed and shining Black Stars.

The flag of the moment

It is still painful to relive Ghana's journey in this great event, to think of what could have been.

Ghanaian fans All the continent's hopes were left resting on the Black Stars' shoulders

As they marched past the USA the city went mad - red, gold and green with a black star in the middle was the flag of the moment.

One black star, said the wits, beat 50 white ones.

The hawkers were running out of flags, the T-shirt sellers could not keep up with the demand and the Sowetan newspaper lead with the Bob Marley title "Africa Unite".

The politicians, as they are always likely to do, rode on this surge of goodwill and told the Black Stars that the hopes of an entire continent rested on their shoulders.

No pressure then.

And then you know the rest.

Regretful tears

July 2nd saw the best match of these games and more than a hint of impossible drama - the kind of drama only the Gods can write to remind us that fate and football are not in our hands, to make sport of our fickle hopes and our need to reassert ourselves as a continent of heart and talent.

Ghana's striker Asamoah Gyan reacts at the end of the penalties shootout during the of 2010 World Cup quarter-final match Uruguay v Ghana Ghana's Gyan's regretful tears could not wash away a continent's disappointment

Why did Suarez cheat?

Did Asemoah Gyan score the penalty in his head before he had committed boot to ball?

Why did he hit it so hard?

His courage in scoring that first penalty and his regretful tears could not wash away a continent's disappointment for hours after this titanic battle.

There was no shame in Ghana's defeat, and all predictions about an Argentina v Brazil final landed in the dustbin of delusions.

The Spanish and the Dutch ruled the roost and it seemed impossible that this journey began so many years ago would be coming to an end in front of a global audience of billions, with Mandela in the stands.

Spain took the World Cup to add to their European cup and we are all feeling a little deflated, like vuvuzelas with no wind.

Cashing-in exercise

And so what now?

South Africa's midfielder Steven Pienaar (left) and midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi (right) train in Johannesburg as police watch The World Cup caused South Africans to raise their game

What will happen to these magnificent stadiums? Who will play in Polokwane? Port Elizabeth? The mighty Soccer City?

Will Fifa catch up with the 21st Century and allow goal-line technology? Will Suarez ever express regret and learn that the beautiful game is soured by cheating?

And we know that for Fifa this has been a cashing-in exercise - South African companies paid millions for the right to show football, to have the images of major stars on their brands, to sell coffee mugs bearing the label "South Africa 2010".

And those who live in the shadow of Soccer City could not pay 5,000 rand to see their heroes, nor sell traditional African foods at football matches because the giants of fast food claimed that right, and some would say Fifa even had a hand in the fast prosecution of those committing crime during this World Cup.

And what of the teenager after her finest moment?

Will crime return to the streets as the visitors leave? Will those South Africans who cheered the Ivorians, the Ghanaians, the Cameroonians go back to xenophobia?

Whatever happens in South Africa's next steps into nationhood, we must say in all sincerity - thank you for the memories.

Thanks for your comments. Please read a selection below:

I have lived in the USA, EUROPE, & SOUTH AFRICA. What South Africa did will forever give us joy and pride. Let us not forget to thank Fifa for believing in us, and for the rest of the world for traveling to Africa even though half their hearts where not into it. But when they left Africa they left their hearts in Africa. God bless us all.

Mubita C. Nawa, Lusaka, Zambia

I was already proud of Africa for having hosted a great World Cup tournament and for the fantastic football that Ghana displayed. But I am now proud that one of ours has written such a wonderful article, summing it all up so evocatively.

Kahana Lukumbuzya, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

Great article, put a lump in my throat. Brilliant World Cup! South Africa has made us proud. Well done to everyone who made it a success. Let's hope this unity will last forever now. We have proved to the world that South Africa and its people are awesome. This has shown where our country has come from and where we are today! There are a lot of us South Africans living away from HOME but Africa is always in our blood. Viva Africa!

Janine Piagesti, South African living in the UK

Well writrten Farai and indeed South Africa did put up a good show which was rather let down by the not so entertaining games. Maybe Dunga has a lot to do it because rightfully or wrongly in modern world cups most people's memories are of the Magic provided by Ronaldo (the real one!), Ronaldinho, Romario, Bebeto and Rivaldo. Dunga's Brazil had no player close to the above. However the most important thing as an African is that this tournament showed things can work in Africa if our politicians and administrators put national interests first. If you may let me step on controversial territory, unlike the rugby and cricket world cups the structure of football meant that it was mainily black administrators and black politicians who ran the show and they defied stereotypes and did the job to high international standards. Even though there will be a lot of white elephants - it was even the poorest south africans said they felt proud that their country had organised such a good event - echoing the feeling felt from cape to cairo.The challenge now for South African and all african politicians and administrators is to take advantage of the priceless goodwill this world cup has generated and make africa work for us all in our daily lives.

Maidei, London

Good article. finally africa showed the whole world that it's able to host such an important event. i wish 2020 olympics goes to South Africa.

Mohd Hashi, Abu Dhabi , U.A.E

Where the black star stopped in 2010 World Cup, as made in Africa, the Vuvuzela as the next made in Africa will continue to carry Africa, even against all oppositions to all nations of the world.

Sunny Ekwenugo, Berlin, Germany

WELL PUT. Hopefully the zeal and enthusiasm with which the entire continent came together to support the African teams will serve as a lesson to our divide and rule leaders that we are in fact one people when it comes to things that matter. (Africans). And yes! OH Ghana! what could have been? Long live the memories. Thanks South Africa for proving the critics wrong!

Adam Yameogo, Chicago, USA

Now at least I won't have to explain anymore how Africa looks like. I will just refer people to the World Cup 2010.

Tiber, Houston

We can be a race known to be ravaged by hunger, disease, corruption, crime, violence, but hey when it comes to sports, soccer we become ONE. I am very proud of South Africa for reminding the world that we are capable and good things happen in Africa. As Africans we should strive to stay as one. We all know that no one else will change the current situation but us because it is in our hands to change the image of Africa. My heart goes to those innocent souls lost in Uganda, there are just no words to describe that act.

Mbhokane, Peterborough, Canada

beautiful write up, really heartbreaking, this world will forever remain memorable, the black stars made africa espana

abu godfrey, jos, nigeria

FIFA should consider the view of many experts that Ghana's loss, through the cheating of Suarez, is unacceptable and that the rules should be changed. A red card is given, and a penalty kick awarded, for the offence of denying a team an OPPORTUNITY TO SCORE. Two goalkeepers? Isn't that ridiculous? But in the eyes of the world -- and the match was watched with anxiety by millions all around the world -- that is what Uruguay was allowed to deploy against Ghana. Unless FIFA changes the rules, it will be seen by many, especially Africa, as a moribund centre of stupidity that has no eyes to see what the whole world can see.

k kantara, london, uk

I'm South African, but when it was down to Ghana carrying our torch, I was more than just an South African, I was an African. Thank you to all my fellow SOuth Africans for this memorable experiance where race and culture was united into one big feeling which sport. I resent FIFA and how they treated our locals however, beautifully written though :)

Nadia, Cape Town, South Africa

Thanks Farai, South Africa....... Indeed, Made Africa Proud for hosting the World Cup!!! Yes We Can !!! Viva South Africa !!!

Osei, Accra, Ghana

We are the best had it not been of cheating by Uruguay. We are the fittest in the world. no-one can blow a Vuvuzela so loud like we do.

Shepherd Mugwede, Harare, Zimbabwe

What a nice read, as is always the case from most African writers. A pity as im reading the article word on the street is 'Feel it, Xenophobia is here.' Thousands of your country men are being chased out of SA mainly in the Western Cape. How fast things change, just the other day we were one people when cheering for Cameroon when they were playing against Denmark @ Loftus in Pretoria. What has happened to the deafening sound of the vuvuzela that was head all across SA when Ghana scored they 1st goal against Uruguay? "We're all distant relatives, no matter where you from, where you live How near or far..." NAS and DAMIAN MARLEY

Mawilies, JHB, SA

AFRICA's FIFA World Cup 2010 was played on African soil. yes it was soiled by Africa and has moved its warmth to all over Africa. Although the other African teams were knocked out and only Ghana's BLACK STARS remained... GHANA became the STAR of AFRICA... and the BLACK STARS of Ghana managed to do what no political or military leader or head of State or African Union, no leader in and of Africa could do.. yes they gave us a SENCE OF ONENESS, a sence of UNITY, aa sence of BELONGING TO ONE PEOPLE, the people of Africa. For me it was the RE-BIRTH of Africa. Footbal made it possible for people from Morrocco to S Africa, from Djibout to Namibia, from Lagos to Dar es salaam, from Timbuktu to Maseru, from Kinshash to Mombasa, Johansburg to Cairo we have been ONE, one in joy in expectations and in hope. Of course there are those who complained about our African prideof our culture and the vivuzelas ... hey it was time for Africa and till next time 2014 AFRICAN rules as the venue that gave joy to the World Cup. Sorry about the Bomb blasts JULY 11, 2010 in Kampala, Uganda, as people watched the finals of world cup.. SPORTS is the new force that will change Africa.. THIS IS THE HOUR and there is no turning back. African must put in more time and money and traine for WCup 2014 in Brazil. The earlier the teams start traimning the better. GO GHANA, GO AFRICA...... YES WE CAN get the trophy of WC next time... YES ITS OURS. THIS IS THE TIME

Akiiki Rukikuramahanga, Metropolis, IL

South Africa did a brilliant job hosting the 2010 world cup. To the people of South Africa (All Races) I say congratulations. Keep it up. It is a tough task to fix and achieve balance that sveral years of aparthied created but you can do if all you work together and learn to understand and appreciate the differences between you and turn that into an advantage and strength. Good luck in the future.

Null Arc, Los Angeles, California, CA

Farai,we were very disappointed when we were eliminated. But I am sure that English and Brazilians felt the same too when that fate visited them. I am so proud of what was achieved. The closing ceremony was out of this world. Thanks to Madiba and thank you malume (uncle) Sepp Blatter. I am glad that what the British and the German media were hoping for did not happen.


Good write-up. South Africa indeed made Africa pround.

Lawrence Azubyuike, Lagos, Nigeria

Very well written. True feelings were stirred once more while reading this piece. Oh Ghana! what could have been.

Amma, CT, USA

Thank you for the brilliant digest of the entire feelings about South Africa as a superb world cup host and Ghana as the best African team. We witnessed both cry of joy and cry of loss in a very humane way. South Africans have proven their competence to make incredible things happen. We are proud of them.

Amanuel A. Asghedom, St. Paul, MN, USA

Dear Farai, Lovely write up!!! You are very talented! You don't only have a creative voice for writing but you also have a spectacular eye, love the photos!!! They are colourful and inspiring! My African brother your piece is a pleasure to read and you have ignited my African pride. Thank you very much for sharing your collection of Africa's 2010 Fifa World Cup! One Love!

Thandiwe Gaobepe, Johnnesburg, South Africa

If our politicians, our labour unions, our youth leaders keep their wits about them and not allow the opportunities that have been created to go us by, then yes, we will have more than memories. We will once again be united in the same way as we were in 1994. Much has been done, much has also been undone, and much more needs to be done to ensure that this land of ours will indeed be as beautiful as the beautiful game that has just enthralled us all. Let us hope that the divisions of the past are exactly that, divisions of the past. Let us hope that a truly rainbow future is waiting on us to grow and become what so may of us are hoping for. Let the memories become reality. Let all the money that was spent not have been in vain, but to the benefit of all our people. We don't need another "Cry the Beloved Coutry".

Andries van der Walt, Johannesburg

Ghana did extreemly well. This show's the world that Africa can compete with any european or south american country. In my openion Ghana is by far more superior to USA whwn it comes to soccer. I predict that in the next world cup in Barzil, Ghana and or maybe other african country will reach the semi final and perhaps Ghana will reach the final. Bravo Ghana. Viva Ghana Viva Africa.

Gibril, Petersburg, Virginia, USA

Farai, I was there via my native Malawi. You could not describe it any better. Just right to the point and technically descriptive.

Nelson Kachisi, Derby, UK

With security, 40,000 police were hired for the world cup. these police will not be retrenched so they will continue dealing with crime. i think the biggest impact the soccer festival will have is crime reduction. east and west juburg saw crime reduction of about 60-70% (this data by ADT). we also taking pride from hosting the finals. tutu said people dont just feed on food, they also need inspiration. lastly how the world views south africa has changed for the better

khutso, Joburg, RSA

Thank you Farai for yet another interesting article. I was glad to see that SA hosted the first World cup in Africa. This will help to change the perception and views of Africa by the other nations and individuals. Those who have the notion that people live in trees in Africa as I have been asked time and again will see that the matches were not played on top of trees nor the spectators sat and slept in trees. We have great players in Nigeria but for as long as politicians continue to interfer in football, those competent players will never make it to the outside world. Sometimes, it is not about your skills but who you know and the size of your pocket. There were a lot of surprises and upset in this world cup.

Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

This teenager of 16 will grow up to be a beautiful woman who will become a leader in many ways. She is eager to learn, but also eager to share her beauty, experience, wisdom & wealth with the rest of the world!

Cecile Dorfling, White River, South Africa

i think your point of view is excellent and keep up the good work.

william muller, lutzville

Dear Farai, You have expressed what so many of us feel: that our beautiful country and our people have risen to the occasion and that the winner of the tournament is South Africa, taking the trophy on behalf of Africa. Yes, there are concerns and there was heartache if we now think of Ghana's departure, but the prevailing memory will always be one of pride - pride in what our country was able to do in trying times. We plan to build on this.

Laetitia Botha, Stellenbosch, South Africa

2010 FIFA World Cup will be remembered for a long time. The Game in which Ghana was eliminated to me was a robery. The last minute goal scramble should have been called in favour for Ghana as a winner goal because the game was already over and the ball across the line. Unfortunately, because it was an African country, media had no interest in even showing for viewers to see all corners. This is a shame. Even Ghana's game with Brazil too was like that when a striker scored with his hand. The ref contacte and smiled when he talked to this player. We will still play soccer and it is our hope, dream and one ay we will win it if fair play comes to play.

Harrison Brisbane, Boston, MA

Great write up, Great poetry, Great record. Thank you.

Canny Chanda, Lusaka Zambia

Good article Sadiz. Lets hope that the world cup fever knocked the xenephobic feelings out of them and they leave our Zim people alone.

Bob Connolly, Harare

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