(With apologies to Tom Clancy)
I glided to the surface amidst waves of dreamless slumber and readied myself for the journey. Wearing regular casual clothing, I jumped into our Quantum bus and drove to the workshop and the lodge to collect seven of our African staff. There was an air of expectation, a tension clearly palpable although few words were spoken between us. An occasional nervous smile was shared as we loaded our provisions before aiming the vehicle for the gate and heading beyond our wild, dusty valley and on to a tarred road, onward, southward with a growing sense of purpose. We travelled in silence to begin with, unsure of what to expect but with a certainty that we were heading toward something grand, something new…you see we were driving south toward Polokwane, our provincial capital to take in, to revel in, to immerse ourselves in…the first World Cup football match ever to be played in Limpopo.
We hurtled onward through an ocean of verdant Mopane woodland, rust hued sandstone kopjes and obese and crooked baobabs. Someone turned the radio on softly as we sailed forth through Alldays and further south to Vivo and beyond. I remember noticing as we drew ever nearer to civilization that a growing throng of rural people began to line the roadside at dirt road junctions leading to forgotten farming and village strewn hinterlands with evocative names like Senwabarwana and Bochum. I noticed too that they seemed intent on a similar pilgrimage to the one we were on and that they were dressed one and all in Bafana livery replete with giant sunglasses and vuvuzelas! The masses grew as we motored southward…grew and became a living, vibrant thing, a churning sea of humanity and vehicles converging on this tarred artery feeding the pulsating heart of Limpopo province. They were farmers and farm labourers, school children, mothers, sons, young and old, white and black all with one thing in mind…getting to a new stadium in Polokwane where international football will be played for the first time. I turned up the stereo at this point to hear Shakira and Freshly Ground sing the 2010 FIFA theme tune, “This Time for Africa”, and we became part of the insatiable moving current of South Africans intent on celebrating their country as host to this beautiful of all games. I felt it then constant reader, a sense of belonging to something far greater than myself, a oneness, a patriotic sense of place…I remember thinking: “I am a South African and this is really happening! We are coming together and welcoming the world to our magnificent shores, our limitless horizons and our boundless good nature, our salt of the earth hospitality and our land, our country…so enormously beautiful and absolutely without equal“.
We did my friends…we rejoiced that day in the cosmic greatness of our land, we felt blessed to be alive, stubbornly proud to be South Africans and we watched a game of football in the new and magnificent Peter Mokaba stadium, a game played with vigour and flair between Algeria and Slovenia…there wasn’t a South African footballer within three hundred kilometres and we didn’t care…we were a part of it, a part of history now indelibly ingrained in the minds and souls of an ancient continent and its myriad cultures and tribes. We went on after that day to follow the football on television, internet and car stereo, it became the subject of almost all mealtime conversation and we shared our lodge, sitting rooms and televisions with people from Argentina, USA, Mexico, England, Germany and Holland. We cursed, cajoled and prayed in equal quantities and the fever of football, that terrible ague afflicted us all and we loved it with everything that was in us. We cried a collective “No fair” as Luis Suarez and his “Hand of God” punched a sure goal out of the net to prevent Ghana scoring. We held our breath with the rest of Africa as the penalty shootout began and we mourned and wept as a continent when the Ghanaians lost and fell out of the tournament…Africa’s last hope.
It was a great time, never to be forgotten. We showed the world, didn’t we? The naysayers, the British and European press, the prophets of doom, we defied their verbal onslaught and we proved beyond a shadow of doubt that Africa is capable, that we are magnificent and that we are here to stay…proud to be recognized…proud to be world class…proud …so very proud…to be African!