Saturday, June 12, 2010

The World Cup and Nelson Mandela

I got up early this morning to watch the start of the World Cup. It was so exciting, but I was also bitterly disappointed.

Because my greatest hero wasn't there.

By all rights, this was Nelson Mandela’s day. The fans said it. The organizers said it. For the man who had discovered the enormous power of sports to transform an apartheid-blighted country, this was the culmination of everything he had fought for in his long life.

But in one of those cruel twists that have often marked South Africa’s history, the 91-year-old hero of the liberation struggle was absent from Soccer City stadium yesterday when South Africa fought to a 1-1 draw with Mexico on the opening day of the first-ever World Cup on African soil.

His absence would have, clearly, broken his heart. Despite his frail health, Mr. Mandela was determined to attend the historic opening match.

What a cruel blow. How unfair. As if he hasn't had enough precious moments stolen from his life.

It would have been beyond awesome to see him there being cheered by the crowd. I'd been looking forward to that moment for weeks.

Because as far as I'm concerned we can't cheer that grand old man enough.

And this amazing soccer party is also a celebration of his journey and his South Africa.

The belief that has started to course through the country in the past month, and the feverish anticipation that has been expertly brought to the boil by organisers, erupted in a joyous outpouring. "The atmosphere, the vibe is incredible. It is going to be a great month. People don't sleep nowadays. All you hear is vuvuzelas."

At a time when most stories out of Africa are ones of  war and suffering isn't it great to see so many Africans so happy and proud?

Thokoza means "be happy" in Zulu. Mandela means FREEDOM in all the languages of the world.

Yup. This one's for Africa.

And this one's for Nelson...

With love from Canada....

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