Take a Bow, South Africans – You Are the Real Winners of the 2010 World Cup!

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To me, it matters not a jot whether the man who is given global football’s golden statuette on Sunday is wearing orange or red.

The real winner of this remarkable World Cup tournament is South Africa. And every South African.

I am no politician. No economist. I’m not much of a social analyst. But my “SA-positive” instinct tells me that, whether you found a job or not, whether your B&B filled up or sat empty or whether or not your company increased its profit over the past month, this beautiful thing has vastly enhanced all of our lives.

From the phenomenal opening ceremony at Soccer City on June 11, this World Cup really cooked!

I wrote long before the first ball was kicked on June 11 that the really tangible benefits of the 2010 World Cup would only be felt by our country in years to come. Millions of foreigners with significant disposable income will have had the scales fall from their eyes as their television sets and other media constantly told the story of the safety and sophistication with which our fledgling democracy has hosted this tournament. And they will have, from their lounges in Milan, Montreal, Manchester, Montevideo and Madrid, felt the “Ayoba vibe” that has danced its way around South Africa in the past few weeks.

For them, South Africa will have become a viable long-haul destination for a holiday, a place of warmth, friendliness and indomitable human spirit. We have become a country with which to do business. South Africa is the business. We have grabbed the opportunity to show the world what we are truly made of. And, just 16 years since the awful legacy of apartheid began to drain away, South Africa has finally grown up. We demand to be taken seriously. We can do just about anything any so-called First World country can do and, what’s more, we will do it a uniquely spirited way which can only enrich the human condition.

All South Africans united as one beautiful nation under the Rainbow flag

In the year that I have been writing the “only medically diagnosed SA-positive blog”, I have locked horns with the naysayers who refused to believe that South Africa could pull this off. That we could host a safe World Cup. That we could stage a successful World Cup. Stuck within the limitations of their fear, their distrust of an ANC government reeking of corruption, the unacceptably high level of crime, they saw the new stadiums rise as symbols of new doom and disaster. They steadfastly refused to break free of the shackles of their post-apartheid victimhood and see the bigger picture.

A week before the World Cup began, I was savouring my afternoon coffee at the Art Cafe in my newly-adopted village of Stanford in the Western Cape when an elderly woman opposite me let out a groan. I looked up to see her look up from her morning newspaper, a pained expression contorting her face. “I wish this damn World Cup was over,” she whined, “so that we can get back to our lives.”

I decided to remain quiet as there seemed little point in trying to win over yet another doom-monger. “What do you think?” she asked. I told her. At length. In detail. She blinked. Her top lip quivered uncontrollably. And then she put up an argument, rooted in the comfort zone of her dedication to making herself as small and shrivelled-up as possible in the face of a country that “was going to the dogs”. After we had agreed to disagree, I suggested that she might herself be caught up in the tsunami of goodwill and high spiritedness that was about to envelop South Africa. No sooner had the ball pinged off the left foot of Bafana Bafana’s Siphiwe Tshabalala to open the scoring in the very first match against Mexico and she was.

No sooner had Siphiwe Tshabalala buried the ball in the Mexico net and the South African naysayers were rushing off to buy vuvuzelas and mirror socks

I have so many anecdotes of naysayers and don’t-give-a-damners seduced by the beautiful vibe that has permeated World Cup South Africa but space precludes me from telling them. Suffice to say that there is a new positivity which abounds in the psyche of South Africans. The long-cherished spirit of “ubuntu” (communal togetherness) has turned from a trickle to a torrent as inter-racial distrust has washed away under the wanton waving of our Rainbow flag.

From the pre-World Cup day that the Afrikaner volk which lives, breathes and eats the Pretoria-based Bulls rugby franchise charted unknown territory by going into Soweto to watch their heroes play a Super 14 semi-final at Orlando Pirates’ home ground and ended up enjoying a “moerse jol” (one hell of a party) with the locals to the ongoing feelgood fandango that is this World Cup, South Africa has reached out across hitherto impassable divides to claim its future.

An entire continent will benefit from South Africa’s successful staging of the 2010 World Cup

There is no doubt that this future is littered with challenges. It would be one-eyed of me to dismiss the chaos of Wednesday night when fans were late for or missed the Spain v Germany semi-final in Durban because of the gross unpreparedness of Acsa (Airports Company of South Africa) for the number of planes flying into the spanking-new state-of-the-art King Shaka Airport. And it would be remiss to ignore disturbing reports of a possible resurfacing of the xenophobia which tore through South Africa’s shantytowns in 2008.

Yes, there will be many obstacles to overcome. But if there’s one country I would back to find a way of overcoming these challenges, it is South Africa. We have made it our national sport to bounce back from adversity. The overwhelming success of this World Cup only serves to remind us that South Africans are an extraordinary bunch. An extraordinary bunch blessed to live in an extraordinary country. The beloved country. I am so proud of my “SA-positive” status.

What a winner!

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