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The World Cup Withdrawal Symptoms
The 2010 FIFA World Cup has just finished and the entire world is reeling in the effect of the world’s biggest party hangover. We look at the impact the tournament has had on the entire world and at South Africa.
The Vuvuzelas have gone silent, the stadiums hold a forlorn look and you cannot really find street-side vendors selling flags of various countries. South Africa just hosted the world’s biggest party and now that everyone has packed up and gone home, the country is reeling in an unpleasant hangover.
The overall setup was handled immaculately by the South Africans, offering a feast of football to the entire world. Despite the sceptics and critics missing no chance to take pot-shots at the organizers, the world cup went off without a glitch. There were security threats, but none materialised, thankfully! There were threats that the stadiums would not be complete – they were absolutely magnificent.
While there were signs that the country and its facilities were under stress at times, there was absolutely no doubt that the world of football is a much better place thanks to the South African edition of the FIFA World Cup.
To know what the world cup left behind, it is important to know what actually went into the world cup in the first place. As hosts of one of the world’s biggest sporting event, South Africa was like clockwork for the duration of the tournament. With a horrendous crime rate, an average of 50 murders, 150 rapes and over 200 robberies a day, South Africa is hardly one of the safest countries to be in.
However, that was not this day! When the world cup came, South Africa was at its best behaviour, from top to bottom. 10 magnificent stadia came up to create an unforgettable experience for visitors and spectators. The facilities in the cities hosting these games were excellent. Fans rarely had trouble finding exciting places to eat, drink and make merry.
It took 6 hard years to make this dream come true and in a blaze of glory, South Africa had a month of pure exhilaration.
THE INITIAL REACTION
After the world cup was over, the first thing would be to get up in the morning and think again about what one was supposed to do. No matches on the television set or even in and of the stadia meant that people had to return to their normal lives. The South African leadership was extremely pleased with the way people behaved.
There were massive racial wars just three months before the scheduled start of the tournament. Everything was forgotten! Machetes were laid down for Vuvuzelas, as South Africa truly lived up to the spectacle it organized.
With over 38 billion Rand coming in from the tournament, the earnings are said to have been negated by the 38 billion spent on creating this masterpiece. However, the payoff doesn’t vanish because of the break-even financial scoreline. The fact that new roads, transportation, facilities and stadia were created is a testimony to the profit the country has made. People, for generations to come, will revel in the magnificence of the world cup, making everyday a part of their life-long memory.
There is, however, a downside to every story. The world cup was great – we all know that. There was some exciting football on show and without a doubt, everybody involved in the tournament, whether a player, coach, official, spectator or Vuvuzela-seller, had a grand time.
The sight of white citizens proudly wearing the colours of Ghana was a fantastic sight to those who remember the situation from as little as 20 years ago.
The world cup has given the people of South Africa a new hope. There have always been people who have claimed that South Africa would never be so capable. There were doubters at every stage, blaming their history, bringing out stories that have a massive psychological impact on the people of South Africa. However, they are quiet today as South Africa may have just pulled off the best world cup spectacle ever.
However, there is a downside to it all as well. With a sudden boost in the economy, the world cup gave jobs to many in anticipation of the tournament. Jobs were abundant as stadiums needed staff, fans needed souvenirs, South Africa needed hands on the pump. However, now that the job is done, many people suddenly find themselves back amongst the millions below the poverty line.
The country realises that factors like HIV/AIDS are still a massive reality that needs to be dealt with. Having stars in your eyes can hinder your vision, but only for a limited period. The momentum of the South African community needs to be sustained however there isn’t enough on offer to do that. People are asking questions, looking for answers that can help them sustain their way of life, as it was during the world cup.
Things are looking grim, again!
FIFA World Cup 2010 inaugural ceremony
THE GROUND REALITY
There was a massive sense of pride and achievement that the world cup gave to the South African people. However, the government is struggling to find ways to sustain that sense of national pride, now that the month is gone and over. People are looking at hosting other events, like the Olympics, to bring back that sense of unity.
Is that really the answer?
Did the world cup really solve the problems of South Africans as the media and FIFA representatives would like you to believe? Frankly, they aren’t really working on the same platform here. With housing, health, education and an overall economic growth still lagging far behind international standards, South Africa may not really be as pleasant as the world cup may have made it seen.
The world cup has helped the rich get richer while the poor stay poor, or have gone further down. In a massively unequal society, the world cup may have just added fuel to the fire of inequality. Not everyone was chanting with the Bafana Bafana when they took to the pitch. Not everyone was thronging to the stadia, to watch the spectacle. Not everyone rejoiced with South Africa beat France or when Ghana reached the quarter-finals.
There were still people out there for whom nothing changed – world cup or not!
Many were unable to watch any world cup games because of no electricity in their homes. Some of those who did have electricity, didn’t have television sets. As the world focussed on the glamour inside the stadium, people still died of HIV/AIDS far from the centre of attraction! There were still murders and crimes, just not where the cameras were. People still died of hunger and poverty, but no one came to cover that! Traders were driven out from near the stadia giving way to those who bought licenses. Protesters who demanded more than just a party, who wanted their basic amenities to be fulfilled, claimed to have been thrown out of their homes.
THE GAP WIDENS
There is no doubt that people in South Africa, in general, have gained nothing from hosting such a spectacular event. All the shouting of “This time for Africa” has not done anything to help those in need. There is general dissent in the people and the voices are rising again. South Africa returns to an unpleasant normalcy.
People stand and wonder why billions come out when FIFA, the world and television wants to come out and play in South Africa. They wonder where these billions have disappeared when it comes to building homes or providing basic amenities to the poor.
A Zimbabwean was thrown off of a moving train, the first signs that South Africa’s history of ugly patriotism is coming back to the fore. Foreign nationals are being threatened, most fleeing the country to get to their homelands or simply running away to the rural parts of South Africa. The wave of inequality has brought armies of disgruntled people out on the streets.
There is this constant sense of extraordinary achievement, in South Africans, whenever they pull something like this off. It happened when they won the Rugby world cup and it happened again with the football world cup. People return to work knowing that the party is over and they need to wait until the next one comes their way.
Whether it is due to their own persistence or due to that of a few amongst them, South Africa needs parties like this to come together – and that is extremely disturbing.
For a country that plans to rub shoulders with the big leaders of the world, there needs to be more substance. Organizing the world cup may lead to the Olympics but the fact remains that South Africa will not be defined by what they do in these events or tournaments. South Africa will be defined by what happens between these events, to the people who inhabit its lands and turn the wheels that run South Africa every day.
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