Cars pile up along the highway in the direction of the V&A waterfront en-route to the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town. I turn on my car radio to hear the announcements about the 2010 Soccer World Cup and the opening match about to be played between South Africa and Mexico. All around people are hooting, South African flags are flying in the breeze out of car windows and almost every vehicle is adorned in flags. I feel excited and proud – proud to be a South African and proud that our country is hosting this momentous event. I know the feeling is shared.
There’s the man with the toothless smile, the lady walking hand in hand with her young son, the men and women on stilts smiling down upon gathering crowds and people peering out on the Cape Town Fan Walk from restaurants where anthems and theme songs spill out, invigorating the crowd. It is the beat of unity brought together by a shared love, a simple game.
I walk along Somerset Road that leads to the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town and I am dressed in the vivid yellow and green of the local team Bafana Bafana – we have the very loud and unstoppable vuvuzela that’s blasting very much like the sound of the car hooters I’d heard earlier. Usually sensitive to loud noises, I find that the noises around me do not bother, rather they ignite an excitement in me. The feeling is priceless.
“When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.” – Nelson Mandela
The 2010 Soccer World Cup and days such as the one I describe, remind me of how far our country has come since the first democratic elections and how we continue to strive to create unity and fairness between people of all races and cultures.
A speech by Nelson Mandela in 2005 speaks to the power that sport has in uniting people, not only locally but globally too:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else
does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”
A flashback to 1995 – I sit in my family ‘TV room’ and I am 9-years-old. On the fuzzy bunny-eared screen I watch as Francois Pienaar holds up the gold trophy to the throngs of people in the stadium and to the millions of viewers watching from around the world. In 2007, I gather for a braai (barbecue) at a flat in Cape Town. Friends and I stand around the large screen watching the Rugby World Cup and dance and fly the flag with every try. South Africa is victorious – we are the champions!
Today I sit on the benches in the communal recreational area at Londolozi where people of all cultures, races and guests from around the world, are brought together to watch the Rugby World Cup 2015. It’s a wonderful feeling to hear the cheering and commentary from each participant and their enthusiasm for their team.
National Heritage Day:
While rugby is top of mind at the moment it is also National Heritage Day today – a day that we are encouraged to spend with friends and family. Having a braai (barbeque) is one of the ways that South Africans commemorate our heritage. This social occasion is a time for people to chat and share stories and then eat food that is prepared over flames. Heritage Day is also more recently referred to as National Braai Day (formally introduced in 2007) – recognised for South African’s love of preparing food on a fire – likened to occasions such as Thanksgiving in America and Bastille Day in France. And while not all South African’s braai and some may not even enjoy it, it is something much like sport, that can be used to bring people together.
So today, let’s celebrate who we are and where we have come from. Let’s reflect on the many wonderful reasons that we have to be proud of our country, its people, landscapes, history, wilderness and wildlife.
And yes, let’s celebrate our sport….
A QUOTE FROM – NELSON MANDELA
“I believe that South Africa is the most beautiful place on earth. Admittedly, I am biased but when you combine the natural beauty of sunny South Africa with the friendliness and cultural diversity of our people, and the fact that the region is a haven for Africa’s most splendid wildlife, then I think we have been blessed with a truly wonderful land.”
Written by Kate Collins, Londolozi Blog Editor