Okay, right up front I’m going to confess that I am a sports know-nothing. I’ve been to Pasadena on New Year’s Day, but only to sit on the curb and watch the Rose Parade roll by. I watched the Giants play in the San Francisco stadium once, but only because I had a cute date. Even during the Olympics, I mainly just watch the ice skating. Say what you will about my lack of Americanism, I’m just not the sporty type.
But the World Cup soccer passion has riveted my attention on South Africa. In what may well be a pivotal moment–in sports… on the African continent… in history–they are ready to play “futbol”!
Okay, also because the whole scenario brings back a flood of memories from a past World Cup. In 2002, My husband and I flew into Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, West Africa. For a moment, we thought the entire country had turned out to welcome us. Turns out, the country’s national football (soccer) team, The Lions of Teranga, was coming home in glory. Life in the city came to a wild standstill as everyone turned out to welcome back the team that had done them proud. Even the president of Senegal paraded through the streets in a chauffeured car. Couldn’t blame the folks for being excited. It was the Senegal’s first World Cup ever, and their team had just defeated France, the world champions. Senegal’s team made it to the quarterfinals, only the second African team to do so.
I was in Senegal researching a book at the time, and with all the excited craziness, I have to admit I wasn’t too sorry to move on. Our next stop was Tunisia. Only problem was, Tunisia was also shut down. We wanted to meet with people and talk and visit, but everyone in the country, it seemed, was glued to a TV watching their team play the Japanese in Osaka.
Don’t ask me anything about the World Cup games. Don’t ask me about the groupings, nor who is playing whom. I know nothing. Doesn’t really matter, though. I’m just so excited to see Africa in the sports limelight.
When the cup was awarded to South Africa back in 2004, Sepp Blatter, FIFA (International Football Federation) president, said, “The victor is football. The victor is Africa.”
Oh, please, God, I pray that is so!
“You didn’t see any cows walking around the hotel in Germany.”
American midfielder on how playing in rural South Africa differs from playing in Hamburg in 2006.