I have to admit that I was one of those white people who never really gave you much credit. Not only did I find soccer boring but I also believed that you weren’t very good – terrible actually. I didn’t pay attention to when you were playing, who was coaching you or try to learn the names of your players.
Even when we were awarded the World Cup it wasn’t enough to make me change my attitude. I went from not really caring about you, to worrying about how you were going to embarrass South Africa when we were beaten in all our games and knocked out early. I looked forward to the World Cup, but not to supporting you.
I have always watched our national cricket team and supported the Springboks. It has come naturally to me. My family comes together for these events. We all sit around the television. We eat biltong. I make the salads with my sisters and my mom, while my brother and my dad braai our boerwors and chops. We are the stereotypical white suburban family.
Patriotism is overwhelming, all-consuming and can pull masses along in its tide. I was sucked in along with everyone else. I had mirror socks and a flag on my car and I wore my yellow and green Bafana shirt. I know the words to Waka Waka and Wave Your Flag. I was proudly South African. But it wasn’t until I sat down and watched you play Mexico on Friday night that I became a proud Bafana Bafana supporter. I felt the same pride I feel when I watch the Springboks and the Proteas play. I sang the national anthem with you, and I celebrated and cried when Tshabalala scored the first goal of the tournament. And although I was disappointed when we lost against Uruguay it was a good thing to feel, because for so long I had been indifferent to your wins and losses. It felt good to clench my fists and scream at the TV. It felt good to care.
And I am left feeling both grateful and guilty. Grateful because I am now able to appreciate what you do for us and my interest in soccer and Bafana Bafana has been ignited. But also guilty because it took the World Cup coming to South Africa to finally get your country to support you. For years you have played and represented us while we ignored you. And when we finally stood up and decided to acknowledge your efforts you have all been humble and appreciative of our support.
It seems as though our sporting history has finally come full circle in South Africa. In 1995 the country united behind the Springboks with a predominantly white line up. Fifteen years later and the country has rallied behind you. It seems right and fitting, as well as long overdue.
Thank you for your patience. Thank you for representing us when we didn’t support you. In me you have a new life-long supporter. I wish you all luck for your upcoming game against France and more importantly the games you will play after the World Cup. I’ll be watching.
Published in The Times 21/06/2010
Reposted on the East Coast Radio Big Breakfast Blog 21/06/2010