Southern African News Features                                           SANF 10 No 27, July 2010
World Cup 2010: African culture the winner
By Jabulani Sithole

As the curtain came down on the great show of the century, the FIFA 2010 World Cup final held for the first time on the African soil in South Africa, it was time for the winners Spain to celebrate in style, however, the greatest winner was "African culture."

Going by the closing ceremony of the tournament, it demonstrated the richness of African culture through performances of music and dance supported by a brilliant "feast of lighting technology" supported by 18 projectors to depict life in Africa and African wildlife showing a herd of 32 elephants.

With the team celebrating and packing its bags to leave the continent after a successful mission, just as the many losers, some who have long forgotten that they ever played in the tournament, they all take with them the greatest gift of Africa, its culture encapsulated in ubuntu.

Ubuntu is the fibre that binds Africans together. It is a concept of individual significance being achieved through the community.

The month-long sporting event provided the world with an opportunity to experience Africa, its people, their hospitality and humanity.

According to South African President Jacob Zuma "The tournament exceeded our expectations more so the role played by our people... South Africans put the country first to embrace the visitors and one another, opening up to Africa and the rest of the world," a true reflection of the concept of ubuntu.

Ubuntu also functions as a unifying factor, bringing people together regardless of their background or access to wealth.

Africans showcased a great culture of service and friendliness in hosting over a million visitors that visited South Africa, the southern Africa region and the rest of Africa as part of the great soccer festival.

Cultural activities can play a key role in a transformation process to a shared public space. The World Cup has proved that indeed sport is an effective means of integrating. When people take part in sport they are equal and so culturally, ethnic and racial differences disappear.

As for South Africa, a country that has fourteen official languages, during the last month a single language was coined that of football, epitomized by the blowing of the noisy ‘vuvuzela’ - plastic horn which was blown by everyone, black, white, woman or men, young or old, both national and foreign, to urge their teams to victory.

With much trepidation for its noise and the suspected health hazards, the world could not help but to fall in love with the vuvuzela. China is now manufacturing the plastic horn with high hopes that this cultural artefact will be premiered in the coming Olympics and soon become a feature at Wimbledon.

Another, indelible mark posted by the African culture in the world scene through the World Cup is the Africana cultural symbols through the architectural designs of football stadia such as Soccer City stadium that resembles the African calabash.

Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit near the Kruger game park in eastern South Africa is an architectural fascination depicting the life in the Kruger National Park with 18 roof supports that resemble giraffes and the seats are patterned with zebra stripes.

When the world and media cameras converged in South Africa more than a month ago, focus went beyond the country to zoom on the southern Africa region and the entire continent. In that situation the continent indeed did not disappoint, it projected its best image ever.

The tournament gave a positive picture of a continent known for extending its begging hands, with its people suffering from both natural and man-made disasters such as successive droughts, pandemics such as HIV and AIDS, bad governance, corruption, dictatorships and many other disasters.

The world saw a picture of a peaceful, hunger free continent that has set its eyes and energies to its development, for both the people and their environment – the infrastructure.

The sophisticated roads, rail and air transport networks in South Africa showcased nothing but a bold statement that Africa is a continent with a potential and that if given a chance can solve it internal challenges and stand to be counted.

While, South Africans celebrate the successful hosting of the World Cup some cannot hold back their excitement on the infrastructure the tournament leaves for the country.

Puleni Msimanga from Soweto said, "The World Cup should have a permanently home in Africa so that development of more and better roads, housing and other social amenities can meet us fast."

To the game of soccer, the African World Cup scored an important mark for the administrators of the game to revisit some of the rules of the game and possible consider adopting technology to enhance fairness in the game. Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region.

This article may be reproduced with credit to the author and publisher.

SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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