A Blond Cup for a Dark Continent

A Blond Cup for a Dark Continent

South Africa is two arches with opposites in between: cities of the rich and villages of the poor; palace and dead city dwellers; its streets filled with black as well as white faces; skyscrapers in the centre and slum areas on the edge; its map a mix of virgin forests and cement cubes. Its public image is jungles with rare animals and migratory bird reserves. It is a history which keeps alive the hope for resistance. It is a book of painful memories of wars of liberation. It is situated at the tail of the dark continent, Africa, but it is hosting the top World Cup. An apparent contradiction: An international event that makes it look more attractive and invites its visitors to think.

Nelson Mandela s plane landed at Zurich airport, Switzerland, in mid-May 2004. The great African leader was heading a South African delegation in a contest with Morocco and Egypt for deciding the host country for the 2010 World Cup. Mandela told the 24 jurors, members of FIFA Executive Committee, that listening to football matches on the radio was his only amusement in his prison on Robben Island during the apartheid era.

When the committee selected South Africa as the first country in the black continent to host the teams competing to win the blond golden cup in 2010, the black leader at age 85 said I now feel I m a 15-year-old boy.

FIFA itself had contributed to the abolition of the notorious apartheid policy. Twenty eight years earlier, FIFA decided to expel South Africa following the 1976 Soweto uprising. Bishop Desmond Tutu was with Mandela in Zurich. He was 72 then. He promised each committee member a first-class ticket to paradise. Thabo Mbeki, who became president of South African later, was also there.

In the jungles of the World Cup

The map shows South Africa s jungles which are parallel or adjacent to the areas where World Cup stadiums are located. Do safari and reserve animals inspire the world s players to be faster than leopards, more malicious than foxes, more ravening than wolves, slier than serpents, more patient than elephants, stronger than lions, more mischievous than monkeys, calmer than penguins and more decent than ostriches? That s how goals are scored, the cup won and colour cards are averted.

The starting point is Soccer City in Johannesburg where the opening and closing ceremonies will take place. In addition to matches 1 and 64 (see the match timetable), matches 9,. 20, 29, 39, 52 and 58 will be played there. We are not far from the jungles of human life and other creatures. There is an interactive museum of the human race which houses the rarest skulls, particularly that of Mrs Bless, which is over two million years old.

Seventy thousand-seat Cape Town Stadium, where matches 2, 11, 23, 30, 44, 56, 61 will be played is near the white sand desert, 40 km north. The desert attracts photographers for international fashion shows, contrasting with frigid sand with warm colours. But the exceptional jungle life is found a long way from the stadium at Sanbona (a three-hour drive) where rare white lions live!

Forty two thousand seat Rustenburg Stadium at North West, where matches 5, 12, 24, 33 and 50 will be played, is surrounded by Megalisburg mountains which are a hundred times older than Mount Everest, half the age of the Earth. The road to the mountains passes through the remains of Iron Age villages, in addition to castles built by the British to stop their enemies during the Boer War (1899 1902). The area encourages camping at mountain feet. There is a very wonderful place which looks like a huge hole made by a thousand megaton explosion of a meteor hitting the ground, but there are 70,000 species of butterflies in this area, in addition to a nearby reserve for 230 species of migratory birds. It is as if nature wanted to present a form of encouragement in the stadiums.

Bloemfontein Stadium, with a seating capacity of 48,000, is in Free State. Matches 10, 19, 27, 34, 48 and 51 will be played there. Wolves, lions and leopards move freely in Bloemfontein s parks, as if to inspire players with malice, strength and speed.

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth (48,000 seats) is the venue for matches 4, 13, 21, 31, 37, 49, 57 and 63. During the apartheid era blacks were not allowed to approach Port Elizabeth shores, but 15 years after the collapse of that regime the younger generation can play freely on the sand of St Johns and go skating on the ocean water.

Polokwane Stadium has a seating capacity of 46,000 in Limpopo province. Kruger National Park is particularly famous for its elephants, but at Mabon Goboy Park a place is in the list of world heritage sites, the remains of a city which disappeared in the 13th century. Nelspruit, with the same capacity, is the venue where matches 15, 28, 40 and 46 will take place. It is said that if you feel hungry in Kruger National Park go to Gwalgwala amusement camp to cook your favourite meal on fire. It is the world s third lowest spot. You can see safari giraffes with their long necks like players trying to kick the ball with his head against the net top.

Durban Stadium, one of two stadiums with a capacity of 70,000 each, will host matches 7, 16, 25, 35, 45, 53 and 62. There is a reserve for native South Africans near the city where you visit them and pass among the trees on which monkeys jump. The highest temperature in Durban is 23?C, with only 20?C during most matches. It may drop to 2?C in Bloemfontein. Durban is the capital city of the Zulu tribes with a population of three million. It has the largest Indian community in the world. A semi-final match will be played there.

Durban s huge stadium (named after Moses Mabida, an anti-apartheid activitist) is made of cement and steel. Its distinctive design comes up with a 350m -long, 106m high arch with two feet which slowly combine into one reflecting the unity of South Africa. Steel bars hang from the arch holding the fibre roof which covers the seats and part of the ground. Visitors to the city can see the town when they climb the huge arch. The seats are blue and orange, the colours of the ocean and sand. Part of the city s development plan, the stadium took three years to complete and cost 3.1 bn rand ($ 403m)!. In addition to the new stadium a 7 bn rand modern airport was built.

South Africa made preparations for the World Cup with a new or rebuilt infrastructure, airports and roads. However, tourism officials are concerned about the country s tourism future. They fear that local travel agents and hotel and restaurant owners may raise prices unreasonably and thus exploit the half million visitors expected to come during the month-long tournament on the belief that it is a once-in-a lifetime chance.

Forbidden tickets and 3-D screens

After this review of football and stadiums, it s time now to enter the fields. What s new, then?

In Preporia, Ministry of the Interior spokesman Fish Naido said forging World Cup tickets is impossible, as every ticket carries security features that make it impossible to forge or copy or buy at the black market. Sold tickets cannot be re-sold. They are sold at outlets for personal use with Ids. To encourage South Africans to attend the matches, tickets sold to them are significantly cheaper than those sold to foreigners.

Buying a ticket is a seven-step process: filling a form at approved banks; showing preferences; handing the form; payment (starting from $22 for group matches); receiving a Visa card carrying the leopard mark; sending an SMS to the applicant on his mobile number with one of these signals (successful/partly successful/unsuccessful); the successful buyer receiving the ticket from a specified outlet starting from last April; the unsuccessful making a refund!

People all over the world had a mania for winning prizes to watch World Cup finals. Airlines, banks, travel and car rental agencies, shops, groceries advertise that they have free tickets. When I read those advertisements I wondered how those advertisers knew the winners names beforehand to enter their names according to regulations?!

He who doesn t buy a ticket because he will not go so South Africa or hasn t won a ticket on special offer, and he who goes there but can t enter the stadium shouldn t be upset because FIFA is for the first time introducing a new 3-D technology to shoot and market 25 matches worldwide. Fans can watch them at specified centres, like Trafalgar Square in London. Once again, sport will play its role in the promotion of new technologies. The producer expects to sell 14m 3-D TVs by 2013!

As for the host country, huge screens will be put up in ten locations: Grand Parade in Cape Town (for 25,000 fans); St George s Park in Port Elizabeth (30,000); Mangwang Centre in Bleomfontein (20,000); Yabargiflam High School in Nilesprint (30,000); a centre in Polokwane (20,000), Fields College (25,000); two centres in Johannesburg (60,000 combined) between Elke Stadium and Enest Free Park. There may be a centre in Pretoria, but there will definitely be one on Durban s shore.

As far as centres around the world are concerned, in addition to the London one, there will be a centre in Sydney, Rome, Rio de Janeiro, Paris and Mexico City, but the biggest ever will be on 17 June Street in Berlin allowing 700,000 fans to watch the games.

Fans without frontiers

If a competition for the most vivid colours and the strongest encouragement tools in the football world is held the black continent s fan colours will win. Its raw materials, signs and diversity make the 2010 World Cup stadium a lively carnival.

This diversity of colours is a lifestyle which is more focused in football matches with its many flags, shirts, whistles and cheers. An example of this are African dances which express deeply-rooted beliefs, customs, traditions and rituals.

These dances are not confined to stadiums but extend to politics. If you attend a gathering of supporters of the ANC-which led the country to liberation, helped bring about the collapse of the apartheid regime and established democratic rule in the country over 15 years ago-you will think for a while that they are football fans. I m indebted to the party that has liberated my country. I ve been here since the morning waiting to listen to a party leader talking about citizenship and civil rights , said a fan carrying a flag.

When you leave Johannesburg and go to one of its suburbs which is a slum area with no drinking water you must look for one of the world s most famous fans: 58-year-old Alfred. He started his career putting a model of a knife on his head and a battery fixed on a yellow hat. That was in 1979, but today he lives on his unlimited innovations and receivers orders from the many sponsors who compete to put their products on his unique head which will be seen by six billion viewers.

This year, a one-off event, there will be 32 different hats, one for each team, at a cost of about $ 20 per hat. The hat will not be complete without the vuvuyzela, a 15-cm plastic horn.

The bleating of the vuvuzela can disturb players and communiction between the referee and linesmen. The Spanish player Xabi Alonso complained about its noise and the Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk said the research he carried out showed how it is harmful, saying it was banned in the 2004 rugby championship at Ellis Park. But FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he couldn t ban it because it is part of African culture and he would resist attempts to Europeanize the World Cup in Africa. Experts say the vuvuzela is derived from the kudu horn and is therefore part of the Zulu culture; others say it entered World Cup matches in the USA when a wholesaler got rid of his stock of empty bottles by throwing them to fans.

Leaving the district where Alfred lives makes you sure that poor areas are always the homes of artists. Not far from the slumbs, portraits of South African leaders by primitive artists can be seen.

In addition to the vuvuzela young man, there is another fan, the most famous in Africa. Though he was born in Benin, a non-participant in this year s finals, he started his journey in South Africa to promote a multi-cultural African country . Gregory da Silva (b.1979) is a symbol of this cultural diversity. He is a walking work of art decorating his head with more than 25 kg of eggs and other things. A CAD expert, he wanted to be a living example of innovation and a tourist attraction in and outside football pitches.

We are still in Africa and its rich culture which has inspired a Greek artist to develop a new art showing some players in mosaic. He s Charis Zivis, a designer born and taught in the Greek capital Athens where he opened his special studio. He attracted international companies, and his year-long visit to South Africa inspired him to devise this new art of using African tribal motifs in drawing the faces of African players (and other non-African figures) inspired by Kinte textiles in West Africa with their vivid palettes and deep colours. He said he devised this new technique is celebrate Africa s hosting of the World Cup, adding that he host country is one of he most beautiful in the world with its rich cultures and hospitable people. He agreed to use his drawings for non-profit purposes.

The African rivals represented by the host country (South Africa), Algeria (the only Arab participant), Ghana (winner of the latest U-20 World Cup), Cameroon (with its black Leopard Samuel Eto o), Ivory Coast (with its ebony elephant Didier Drogba) are invited to a double celebration : the first being hosting the World Cup in the dark continent; the second, the hope for winning the blond cup or at least reaching the quarter-final. Statistics may be against them, so are the results of eliminations, but everything has a first-time chance of occurrence, so do players, coaches and the public believe this?

Groups of early death:

In every tournament a group is always classified as a death group, i.e. one which is likely in each match to be eliminated early, or on the contrary win the tournament. According to FIFA classification of the participants, the lowest points for the four teams combined shows that the death groups are in the following order: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras and Chile, followed by Germany, Australia, Serbia and Ghana. However, after deletion of the weakest teams experts revised the above order as follows: Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal, followed by Spain, winner of the 2010 European Championship as the prime candidates this year.

On the podium

Now we wonder for whom the bell tolls and fireworks set off above the podium on 11 July. Winning the blond cup is subject to the Spanish Casillas net remaining clean, the Argentinian Messi s scoring three goals as he did in Barcelona to make his predecessor Maradona s dream as player and coach to win the World Cup come true; Cristiano Ronaldo s ability to score blitz goals for Portugal, Europe s Brazil; Wayne Rooney s desire to make the real English dream come true (with a correct goal this time) repeating a 44-year awaited achievement, which is likely with Fabio Capbello, an Italian coach known for his championships. (A hundred days before the first match of the English team, he and his assistants travelled to South Africa to inspect the place where the team will train, the hotel where they will stay and the streets they will go along, leaving nothing to chance).

In our estimation, the four candidates are Spain, England, the Netherlands and Portugal, in addition to the folkloric candidates Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Italy, but a surprise candidate could be African or Asian. Who knows? The ball is on the field!

Zakumi, the 2010 World Cup Mascot

What follows is a review of World Cup mascots. The first official mascot, Willi, the lion, was introduced in the 1966 World Cup hosted by Britain, followed by the boy Xwanito in Mexico (1970), then the twin Tip and Tap in West Germany (1974), the footballer Gwachito in Argentina (1978), the orange Narngito in Spain (1982), the chilli pod in Mexico again (1986), the player Ciao in Italy (1990), the dog Striker in the USA (1994), chick Futi s ear in France (1998), energy in South Korea and Japan (2002), the lion Julu 6 in Germany (2006) and the leopard Zakumi in South Africa this year. The mascot is not a funny thing but a commercial product to be seen wherever you go, not in South Africa alone but worldwide.

The mascot will perform the official dance called diskie . In South Africa, things have different names. The game they are going to host is neither football nor soccer but diskie, which carries words like kick, chest, head, etc. South Africa s fans must be familiar with such vocabulary. When a striker scores a goal they shout ladooma , and when a talented player passes the ball beautifully they chant mshikshikshik and say razor when they see a blitz goal and repeat with the spectators shibobo when a player passes the ball among his rival s legs. When the ball hits a defender and makes him spin around uselessly the spectators shout :"Show me your shirt number and of course Bafana Bafana, the Boys the Boys, the nom de gurre of the South African team!

Jabulani 11

At the 2010 World Cup all rhythms will be African from start to finish. The start will be the first kick of the game with Jabulani, the name of the official ball, which means let s unite" in Zulu.

Jabulani has a story with the number 11: The tournament starts on 11 June and ends on 11 July; a football team consists of 11 players; Zulu is one of 11 official languages in South Africa; there are 11 colours on the ball, probably representing 11 tribes, reflecting the host country s diversity as shown on the rainbow flag; this is the 11th time the company sponsoring the World Cup has produced a ball for the event. Before travelling to South Africa, I saw Jabulani twice: first in the sponsor s shop in Salmiya, Kuwait, where I live, sold for KD35 ($100), second on TV when Bayern Munich decided to play with it, perhaps to train the teams on playing with the strange ball designed to hover in the air as long as possible, with more control over it on the rectangular green lawn because of its hollow spots. Our appointment is 11 days from now.


Ashraf Abul-Yazid


Port Elizabeth, the second oldest city in South Africa with its Victorian and Edwardian style buildings and the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, where eight matches will be played

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and FIFA president Sepp Blatter at the 90-minute draw ceremony for the World Cup watched by 200m people on TV

Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison on Robben Island, paving the way for the first democratic elections in South Africa. Four years later (May 1994)

Republic of South Africa is situated in the southernmost part of Africa covering an area of 1, 219, 912 km2. It is bounded north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and east by Swaziland

Old maps of South Africa give a lot of information about its history. On this map which dates back to the year 1815 appears the name Orange Free State where the Yoruka and Barulong leader settled in the late 1930s

The World Cup tournament helped Port Elizabeth build the first football stadium for the game’s fans on the shores of Lake North End

Soccer City was built in the mid-1980s. It hosted the Africa Cup of Nations finals in 1996 which was won by South Africa

Durban Stadium, with a seating capacity of 70,000, where a number of World Cup matches will be played. The two huge arches which combine 100m above the roof are a symbol of unity which was resored after the end of the apartheid policy

Zakumi, the mascot of the 2010 World Cup

A bank card given to those who apply to buy tickets. If the application is accepted a ticken is given instead; if rejected a refund is made

A walking work of art decorting the head of Gregory, a CAD containing more than 25 kg of eggs and other thins. This African fan has become a tourist attraction in and outside football fields

Alfred, a world-famous South African fan with his unique hats. He lives on his innovations and receives orders from sponsors who compete to put their products on his unqiue head

Supporters of ANC which led the country to liberation from apartheid. They look exactly like football fans. It’s a lfiestyle

Colours of the fans of 32 countries will appear in the World Cup amphitheatres in South Africa

Handicrafts in South Africa represent traditional arts, diversity of materials and the popular spirit reflected in extremely diverse tribal stories

It goes without saying that behind the brilliant look of large cities there are many slum areas. If life starts and ends in Johannesburg, the city of gold and happiness, its poor areas may be exactly the opposite

The shanty town in Cape Town

The other side of the coin in Cape Town whose affluence is promoted as hotels, high-rise towers, private yachts and wonderful nature

The golden cup held by the Italian national team as winner of the 2006 tournament until the start of the new World Cup. Other prizes are awarded: golden ball, golden foot, clean play, best young player

The Greek designer/artist Charis Zivis used African tribal motifs in drawing the faces of Aficn players inspired by Kinte textiles in West Africa with their vivid palettes and deep colours to present his new mosaic of the Cameroonian player Samuel Eto’o

The Ivorian player Didier Drogba

Poster of the World Cup host cities as displayed in Johannesburg Fans will chant to the tune of a rainbow

Soccer City in Johannesburg will be the most important place where the first FIFA World Cup tournament in Africa is played. It will start on 11 June and end on 11 July

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