Tag Archives: World Cup 2010

Who’s World Cup is it anyway? Africa goes forth

Watching the confetti drift down on Spain’s jubilant World Cup-winning team, it was hard not to be proud of South Africa’s accomplishment. The country not only pulled off a glittering event, but did so with consummate ease. The naysayers were silenced, and the pessimists largely converted.

And Africa too will bask in South Africa’s glory. There will be a warm glow across the continent, and relief; this was Africa’s coming out party, and it needed to be good.

Of course, South Africa’s success shouldn’t really have anything to do with the rest of the continent. It is a contradiction that many Africans, myself included, frequently gloss over. When something negative happens, we are quick to point out that “Africa is not a country”, and that Darfur has absolutely nothing to do with Botswana; or that what happened to the Togolese football team in Cabinda is irrelevant to the World Cup in South Africa.

But when the good times roll, as they are now in South Africa, we are just as quick to embrace the pan-African ideology. This has undoubtedly been “Africa’s World Cup”, with almost every country on the continent jumping (and being welcomed) onto the bandwagon. A friend complained that Africans had much more fun in the World Cup, because we had six teams we could support passionately; he just had England, and when they went out he was only a spectator, and no longer a supporter.

Before we are so quick to judge outsiders for their naïveté in viewing the whole continent as one, homogeneous entity, we should remember that the pan-African identity was one of the legacies not left by colonialists, who were much less fond of unity than they were of divide and conquer. African solidarity was instead forged in the intellectual hothouses of the independence movements, by the great names of African history – Kwame Nrumah, Julius Nyerere, Steve Biko, Frantz Fanon, etc. They created pan-Africanism. If we want to criticise anyone for a simplified view of Africa, it should be them.

But I don’t want to criticise. I want to claim South Africa’s World Cup as Africa’s success, and let as many people as possible have a share in the glory.



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Nigerian football goes forth (in two years time. We hope)

When I first heard the news that Goodluck Jonathan had suspended the Nigerian football team from international football for two years after their abject performance in the World Cup, I thought he’d gone crazy. Nigeria were bad, but they weren’t that bad. France were worse. And Nigeria were lucky to be in the World Cup at all, only getting there after a playoff with Kenya. So no one should really have been surprised at their early, undistinguished exit. The team don’t deserve to be sent into the footballing equivalent of Siberia (although even Siberians remain eligible for international football).

And it makes Goodluck Jonathan – and Nigeria – look rash, amateurish, and generally incompetent. But maybe, just maybe, he’s not. Nigerian football is notoriously corrupt, and a two year clean up could be exactly what it needs. Jonathan’s ordered a detailed financial audit of the Nigerian Football Association, and I imagine some senior heads will roll. Two years is enough time to restructure the Football Association into something that might be able to effectively steer Nigerian football for many years to come.

Once again with Goodluck Jonathan, too little is really known about him to understand whether this is serious reform or a publicity stunt. Once again, we’re cautiously optimistic.


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Where’s the worst place to watch the World Cup? Somalia goes 4th

Third worst place to watch the World cup: New Zealand.
Despite the heroic performance of the All Whites (no, not a white supremacist group, just the New Zealand football team’s ill-conceived nickname; I imagine it really didn’t go down well in South Africa) against Slovakia and Italy we can only feel sorry for all the poor Kiwis who have to watch everything in the middle of the night due to the 10 hour time difference between there and South Africa.

Second worst place to watch the World cup: North Korea
According to various reports, and the slightly xenophobic English commentators, North Koreans aren’t allowed to watch games unless their team wins; the sports page headlines reflect the Dear Leader’s wishful thinking rather than what happens on the pitch; and players face punishment if they return home empty-handed. While I imagine that most of this is insidious South Korean propaganda, I am fairly sure that North Korea, what with famine, dictatorship, and the constant threat of war, is not where I will find a world cup carnival atmosphere.

First worst place to watch the World cup: Somalia
Not content with declaring war on the government, Somalia’s Islamist militias have also declared war on football. And fun. The World Cup, apparently, is un-Islamic. “We are warning all the youth of Somalia not to dare watch these World Cup matches. It is a waste of money and time and they will not benefit anything or get any experience by watching mad men jumping up and down,” Sheikh Mohamed Abdi Aros, a spokesperson for Hizbul-Islam, said to the BBC. While “mad men jumping up and down” is a rather apt description (I’m thinking of Christiano Ronaldo in particular), it seems unnecessarily cruel to deny long-suffering Somalians even the distraction of a few football matches. And, while I’m not expert, I would certainly challenge their contention that sport is incompatible with Islam. As IslamOnline points out, in response to that exact question, the Prophet Mohammed is reported to have said “”Entertain your hearts, for hearts become blind when they are tired”. In other words, everyone needs some escapism, and the World Cup provides exactly that. This debate is not merely academic; houses in Mogadishu have been raided, and apparently some people have been killed just trying to watch a football match from clandestine satellites. All of which makes Somalian-born rapper K’Naan’s world cup anthem “Waving Flag” all the more poignant; his waving flag, at the world cup concert, was Somalia’s white star on a light blue background (watch it here). An image that few in Somalia would have been allowed to see.


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Fifa to go 4th if it bans vuvuzelas

South Africa loves vuvuzelas. (Image courtesy of Reuters)

There are increasingly persistent rumours of Fifa looking at banning vuvuzelas from World Cup matches in South Africa, due to their supposedly annoying and distracting nature. The very idea of this is unacceptable. As the world has bellowed loud and clear over the last few weeks, this is Africa’s first world cup. It is an African World Cup, put by South Africans for the rest of the world and is something to be proud of. Well, bad news for Fifa – an African World Cup means that African traditions are an inevitable part of it, and that includes vuvuzelas! Banning the infamous horn is unthinkable and would only show an imperialist, West-is-best way of thinking dominating the World Cup and completely defeating the purpose of this beautiful mission.

While most players have remained mute on the subject, Jamie Carragher, of the English Team, has come out in defence of the plastic trumpet. He says “I didn’t notice the Vuvuzelas too much when I came on but I think you notice it more when you are watching” and adds, “What would you rather hear, the coarse swearing from the fans at an everyday Premier League match in England?” Thank you Jamie!

For the moment, Fifa has said it will only ban the vuvuzelas if it finds grounds to do so, such as if they are thrown onto the pitch or used as weapons (because us barbaric Africans want to turn everything into a weapon?). Sepp Blatter tweeted earlier today “To answer all your messages re the Vuvuzelas. I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound. I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?” Let’s hope Blatter’s view prevails as the calls from international journalists and fussy foreign fans grow to remove our favourite instrument from the games entirely.

Simply because the vuvuzela is not something European fans are used to doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be allowed. Surely there are people who find the off tune singing of fans in Europe or the drumming and drunken shenanigans of English fans annoying too? These things will never be banned and neither should South Africa’s beloved vuvuzela.


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The World Cup goes forth

The concert last night was electrifying – standout performances from Angelique Kidjo, K’Naan, and even Shakira, but for me the best song was Vusi Mahlasela’s first song (which didn’t make the highlights cut. Watch it here.) But the man who stole the show was undoubtedly everyone’s favourite archbishop Desmond Tutu, with an eccentrically charming speech which got the crowd roaring and made the TV audience feel like they were there.

The opening ceremony this afternoon was world-class, yet still quirky – I loved the dung beetle tortuously pushing the ball across the field. Well done South Africa, you have made the whole continent proud.

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Puma goes 4th in the African Unity Kit

It’s not hard to see what happened here. A bunch of marketers were sitting around Puma’s headquarters in Germany, worrying: If there are only 5 African countries in the World Cup, then that’s only 5 countries that are going to buy our ridiculously expensive kits. Then one of them had a genius plan: let’s make an African Unity kit. Give each African team the same third kit (because, under the surface, all Africans are the same really), which means the whole continent can buy it. And many probably would have: I was genuinely excited, and probably would have stumped up the money. Until I saw it. From the marketers, the idea clearly went to the designers. What do we know about Africa, they pondered. Dust. Dirt. Mud. Brown people. Animals. Crocodiles. Rivers. Yes, that’s it: let’s take a nice white kit, go for a walk in a muddy river, and then give it to the Africans. They’ll love it. And let’s get some African footballers to model it on a sandpatch (they don’t have proper pitches, you see), and superimpose picture of cuddly wild animals.
This is disappointing from Puma, who’s history in football shirt design in Africa is pretty good. Aside from sponsoring most of the continent, they – along with the Cameroon national team – created two of the most innovative kits in recent memory: the sleeveless kit, which FIFA famously banned, and the one-piece kit, which FIFA also banned. And yet somehow I think the African Unity kit will escape censure; Sepp Blatter is a man who is famously happy to link kit design with stereotypes.


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