Unless you've been living under a rock, you already know that the FIFA World Cup, the global soccer tournament held every four years, kicks off on June 11, 2010 and that South Africa, the host country, is buzzing with anticipation and excitement.
Some of the buzz is coming from the vuvuzelas, the horn-shaped gadgets that sound like a swarm of bees when played together. The sound is an opponents' nightmare but sweet music to the ears of Bafana Bafana (South Africa's national soccer team) and its fans.
The buzz emanating from South Africa is also coming from the people, many of whom see this World Cup as an opportunity to put South Africa and the continent of Africa on the map. Blacks, whites, coloreds and Indians are largely united in supporting this month-long event. They all hope that it will change the perception of Africa as a continent that is rampant with corrupt governments, insurmountable poverty and illness.
This is the first time that the World Cup will be played on African soil, so all eyes will be watching to see if Africa can manage the world's biggest sporting event outside of the Olympic Games. According to the official Web site for the World Cup, the television audience is actually bigger than it is for the Olympics.
Rosemary Croeser, 59, an accountant from Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape region, believes that the event is very important for the whole continent, ''The World Cup is a very good thing for this country and the continent as a whole,'' she says. ''If we can succeed, then they can succeed and the world at large will be more willing to come and visit our countries. The continent of Africa is not all bad. It is a wonderful place to live and visit.''
Some may wonder why all of the hoopla when South Africa has regularly played host to major international sporting events. It successfully hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the 2003 Cricket World Cup, the Women's World Cup of Golf in 2005 and 2006 and, in January 2006, the only street race in the inaugural A1 GP World Cup of Motorsport. South Africa is not a novice to hosting sporting events on a grand scale, but the Football World Cup is, by far, the largest and some argue, the most prestigious.
It is estimated that South Africa has spent nearly 33 billion rand ($4.7 billion) to build stadiums, improve roads and expand airports. Many believe that the boost to the South African economy will be the crown jewel of the actual event. Archie Ntsikelelo, 37, a cashier from Joza says, ''It is the opportunity of a lifetime for South Africa. It will bring job opportunities and more investors to the country. Once our economy stabilizes, it will bring more people together.''
Lindiwe Jama, 34, an administrative clerk agrees. ''I understand that the World Cup is lifting the value of the rand [South Africa's currency]. Hopefully, the prices will be better. Groceries are so expensive when the rand is down. It may even mean a difference in our wages.''
Jama, like others interviewed, isn't completely optimistic about the World Cup. ''I wish that they could have created more job opportunities for those who really needed them, like the truly unemployed,'' she says. "It just seems that most of the people that got jobs knew someone or was a friend of a friend.'' According to accountant Grant Thornton, the World Cup will pump around 21.3 billion rand (approximately $3 billion) into South Africa's economy, generating 159,000 new jobs. In addition, the country's tourism industry will benefit from the estimated 3 million visitors expected for the tournament, while construction and engineering companies will make billions from the infrastructure in the lead-up to the event.
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.