Soccer….Family Style


Reconciling a Culture, World Cup Style
June 14, 2010, 9:19 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve seen it before. In Germany, I got to talk to Germans about how they felt about the World Cup (helps to speak the local language) and many of them commented that it was the first time they had seen Germans show national pride. It was a moment in German history when they could forgive themselves for their past and enjoy being Germans. As someone who had traveled several times to Germany, it was a pleasure to be there for the transformation.

I see the same thing happening in South Africa. White South Africans seem awestruck by the World Cup’s impact on their country. We’ve been told that soccer is typically a black sport, that whites play rugby. Yet they’ve built the stadiums in poorer, black areas and it’s mostly whites that can afford game tickets. It seems to be creating a reckoning for South Africans of both races.

I met Don Currie, owner of Lanseria Lodge on my flight to Cape Town last night, and he echoed many of the sentiments that fans at the games have shared. It seems like people want to let go of the racism of apartheid, but don’t really know the road to get there. There’s a huge gap in class and economics between blacks and whites here, and it seems to restrict progress.

Mr. Currie said he could even see the difference between his 18 year old daughter, who isn’t racist at all, and his older children, who still hold on to some racist tendencies. Mr. Currie himself spoke passionately about the Robben Island Museum that we will visit in 2 days, where Mandela and many others were imprisoned during apartheid. It was clear that the understanding of what his class had done was deeply painful for him.

What I’ve learned so far is that all the people of South Africa are warm and welcoming to their World Cup guests. They are proud of their country and entertaining as hosts. I look forward to learning more about South African culture and history as we continue our journey here.

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