Football fans can be divided, somewhat crudely, into two categories: those attracted to the game for aesthetic gratification; and those whose fandom is rather driven by feelings of group solidarity. These categories are not mutually exclusive. A beautiful move acquires even greater beauty when performed by a player or team with whom one identifies; feelings of solidarity are emboldened when joined to rare artistry.
Authored by Eli Jelly-Schapiro
When Siphiwe Tshabalala scored for Bafana Bafana against Mexico on June 11, he provided the World Cup the sublime opening note longed for by his country, and by followers of football across the planet. Mexico’s late equalizer dampened the local … Continue reading “Bafana Bafana: The Reckoning”
In November of 2007 the workers building Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium staged a wildcat strike, demanding monthly project bonuses and better Health and Safety standards. Their action helped inspire a wave of such work stoppages at stadium sites throughout the country, and contributed to one of the abiding narrative themes of the World Cup’s lead-up: would the infrastructure be ready in time?
Fifteen years after the new South Africa’s first democratic elections, the dream of a true, non-racial, economically just “Rainbow Nation” endures. But so too do the inequalities of race and class that are the legacy of apartheid and its colonialist antecedents. In April of 2009 Jacob Zuma, anointed restorer of the liberationist mantle, rode a wave of populist energy to the national presidency. His ascension, however, has not quelled a resurgence of social unrest. For the majority of South Africans who retain faith in the nation’s potential, but mourn the violent inequities that continue to shape daily life in apartheid’s aftermath, the World Cup is cause for a difficult if needed national reckoning. [Part 3 of a 3 Part series.]
Soccer’s history in South Africa, and perhaps on the continent at large, began in 1862, when British sailors, soldiers, and bureaucrats organized a match in Cape Town. Consistent with its British public school origins, soccer in South Africa was initially a game of the colonizing classes. Like cricket and rugby, the sport was used to nurture an imperialist ethos of mannered masculinity amongst British youth, imperial servants, and privileged colonial subjects. [Part 2 of a 3 part series.]