South Africans Are High On the World Cup
Many see the monthlong tournament as a test of their country's -- and Africa's -- reputation. Winning it all would be the icing on the cake.
With all of this prosperity, Jama's concerns offer insight into the other side of the World Cup. Some people are angry that the government has spent so much on the World Cup, when there is so much poverty in the country. It is estimated that 60 percent of all South Africans are unemployed, and the numbers are even higher in the poorer areas, particularly rural areas. Gerrit Bosman, a 17-year-old student, says, ''I don't know who's making the money from all of these improvements--South Africa or FIFA (soccer's governing body). It is costing South Africa a lot of money to build the stadiums, so I hope it's worth it. All in all, I'm still excited.''
Like Bosman, many people are aware of the issues surrounding the tournament, but are hopeful that the success of the World Cup will trump all of the challenges. Some of these challenges include a transit strike that just ended on June 1, ticketing snafus, traffic congestion and continued protests from striking miners in Johannesburg and residents of Cape Town over government services. Not to mention claims that FIFA is locking out local entrepreneurs by not approving new licenses for retail sales and revoking prior licenses.
Antonio Lyons, 36, an American of West Indian descent living in Johannesburg since 2003, has a warning for people who expect the World Cup to go off without a hitch. ''There is a South African way of doing things. Those coming here looking for Europe or America will be vastly disappointed. If you open your minds and go with the flow, there is no way that you will not enjoy this event, which the people of South Africa have invested their hearts and souls in.''
The lead-up to the World Cup has not been without challenges, but after years of anticipation, the opening whistle Friday when South Africa faces off against Mexico will make clear that the world's most watched event is indeed in Africa. Some South Africans believe that although Bafana Bafana is currently ranked 83 out of the top 100 teams in the world, it can win because it is their time. But for those who may be more realistic, they have already won by hosting one of the world's most profitable and popular sporting events.
Nsenga Burton, a regular contributor to The Root, recently visited South Africa.