World Cup 2010 and ‘living on the edge’ in South Africa

I was forwarded a link to Rian Malan’s piece for The Observer this Sunday in which he describes how each day in South Africa

…brings momentous exhilarations and dumbfounding setbacks. 

and although he and I apparently sit on very different sides of the fence as far as our views on the national energy and optimism go, I do agree with this sentiment at least. Never a day goes by – especially in the lead up to this World Cup tournament – without the positivity being ruined by a neagtive incident or the air of depression being lifted by a positive moment.
Things happen here.  

Once more, South Africa has found an issue to be divided over. This is a fairly regular occcurance and I’ve given up on trying to keep my Venn diagram updated, having exhausted my son’s supply of felt tip pens. This time, it’s not race or money, politics, culture or crime – it’s whether we should be hosting the World Cup next month.
According to his column, Malan thinks not, but his maid Gladys Dladla, can’t wait.
And that’s because she puts a value on pride and he does not. (Incidentally, her value system means that Mr Malan is always impeccably turned out, as well.)
For Malan, it just comes down to money and having spent a lot of it to host the World Cup, we’re not going to get any back:

We have nothing to gain from the World Cup but the pleasure of your company, so it would be nice if you changed your minds about coming. Please! We’ve almost bankrupted ourselves in our determination to stage a tournament that runs like clockwork. And if it doesn’t – you can have a chuckle at our expense.
Now we’re all saddled by debts it will take generations to pay off. I’m so riled that part of me would be gratified if the World Cup were a complete failure.

That’s nice, Rian. A really blinkered, head-in-the-sand way of looking at things. Jeez – if you weren’t so apparently “well respected”, I’d (possibly) come over and give you a fat slap.
Honestly, you are better educated than to be peddling misinformation like that “we have nothing to gain from the World Cup but the pleasure of your company” bullshit. Who are you trying to fool, anyway? When was the last time you went up to someone in the street and asked them if they think the World Cup is a good idea? Everyone already has an opinion. People’s minds are made up. Either they’re anti-World Cup or they’re pro-World Cup. The former already think like you and the latter really don’t care.
Would there really be any benefit for you, other than the opportunity to have a smug grin on your face, if it did all come apart at the seams? And would that be worth it?

Oh, and while we’re at it on the whole melodramatic front, what’s this “life on the edge” thing, you’re living?
“Lunching with friends at an outdoor restaurant that was recently held up by armed robbers” isn’t “life on the edge”.
“Lunching with friends at an outdoor restaurant that is currently being held up by armed robbers” is “life on the edge”. Drizzling olive oil over your smoked chicken salad as they steal your companions’ wallets, finishing your conversation before you let them take your cellphone.
Honestly, that’s like me saying I live “life on the edge” because I once drove through Lockerbie and we all know what happened there.

But of course, it’s the overseas readers you want the sympathy from. How often do I read the work of a local writer which has been adapted and embellished for distribution to those who don’t know any better?
You want them to believe that the only way to get out of a tin shack is to bribe an official, when you and I both know that it’s not. You want them to believe that we’re barely hanging on – we’re not. You juxtapose our existence against that of a “normal society”. That would be a valid comparison if we were a fully-fledged Western nation. But we’re not.  

I’m not denying that South Africa has spent a lot on bringing this tournament to the country. But I dispute that we’re not going to get anything back from it. I think we’re already getting things back from it. Local infrastructure has got a HUGE kick up the backside – we’ve got new roads and new buses, those “problems” that have been there for years are being dealt with. And yes, it might not seem to be the right way to go about things – that this should all be happening anyway: but it wasn’t, was it?

Then there’s the tourism exposure: showcasing South Africa to a global audience of billions. This won’t bring in any money in MalanWorld, obviously, since no-one wants to watch a failed tournament, do they? But this is the biggest medium to long term benefit and it’s the reason that people like Malan are a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy – if people aren’t having a good time here, then we won’t reap those extra tourist numbers. Do us all a favour and stay inside then, Rian.

But finally there’s the massive value of the pride. Pride in uniting behind the national team and showing the world that “even” South Africa, beset with problems and difficulties, can host the world’s biggest sporting event and do it well and do it right. Football matches remain the most multicultural events I have ever seen in South Africa. And in a country where racial division exists everywhere else in society, that’s no mean feat.

The World Cup will come here. It will be a huge success and will be enjoyed by millions. Every little issue or flaw will be leapt upon by Rian and his sort, but I fancy they will be drowned out by the vuvuzelas.
I truly wish that aural censorship would continue long after 2010 as well.

6 thoughts on “World Cup 2010 and ‘living on the edge’ in South Africa

  1. You could of course go out tonight and heckle Mr Malan.
    I believe he his at an event at Kalk Bay Books this evening.

    As an aside, Kalk Bay was the only town to defy the group Areas Act and was multi-cultural all throughout the apartheid era (apart from the school of course).

  2. You don’t have to go far to klap him. He’s currently in Franschhoek at the book fair pissing off Antjie Krog.

  3. Well written 6000. You’ve inspired me to get tickets to watch the clash of the titans on Monday night. Aus v New Zealand at the MCG. Their last hit out before heading off to SA.

  4. Thanks for you rpositive views. Undoubtedly our country will bebfit from the World Cup; not just in the infrastructure development that you have mentioned but in its exposure on TV to billions of viewers, who will be sure to see the real South Africa, and our continually growing tourism industry will receive a further boost. How awesome is that? The world will be able to judge after the World Cup that visiting South Africa is both exciting and safe.

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