I planned to write about the end of the World Cup and have a piece ready on Monday morning – bright and early. I even had a title worked out: “Feel it! It is gone!” I wanted to reflect on the month-long tournament, discuss what it has done for South Africa and where we go from here. I had been feeling very sad about the World Cup coming to an end and on the morning of the final between the Netherlands and Spain I found myself crying in a shopping centre. While walking around the aisles I heard Shakira’s “Waka Waka” come onto the radio. I heard some giggling behind me and when I turned I saw the changing room ladies starting to do the dance moves and sing along. Slowly and self-consciously the customers around them joined in. Some just smiled and watched, one group clapped along, and others sang loudly. And then it ended and everyone laughed and smiled as they walked away. I remember feeling terrified that come the next morning that special feeling would be gone. I wiped away tears that were both patriotic and fearful.
But when I woke up on Monday morning I felt something I hadn’t expected. I didn’t feel disappointed or sad that the final was played the night before and the month-long party was over. I felt like I had every morning for the last month. I felt like something exciting was happening, like people were still partying, teams still competing and vuvuzelas still blasting. We felt it so strongly when it was here. And while officially it is gone, the feeling still lingers. It whips along on flags attached to cars, you can see it in the person who wears their Bafana shirt and you can hear it the solitary vuvuzela blast that continue to pierces your neighbourhood late at night.
So, I think Zaipiro’s cartoon in The Times isn’t really an accurate reflection of how it feels in South Africa at the moment. It’s true that we have lived in a wonderland for the last month but I think our trip back to reality is going to be slower, more incremental and less final. While the World Cup has ended, I think that we have so much that we will carry with us. It is not gone – I doubt it will ever truly be gone. Like big events that have unified the country before, like the 1994 national election and the Rugby World Cup, the 2010 Soccer World Cup has changed our perception of our country. A paradigm shift has occurred and it is with this new, altered perception that we will go forward; ever mindful of what we have been able to achieve and present to the world. While it may have started off as a month-long soccer tournament, it grew into something much greater than that. It was the catalyst that helped remind us that our strength as a nation is not only rooted in our escape from an oppressive past but also in our ability to come together in the present as citizens, brothers and sisters.