Monday, June 14, 2010

It's Here, Feel It!

I was in Luanda during the opening ceremony of the World Cup and on the plane from Luanda to Johannesburg when the opening game started between Bafana Bafana and Mexico. So I basically missed the excitement of the start of the FIFA World Cup completely, and the slogan we've been hearing over and over again, "It's here, feel it", didn't have much meaning to me while I boarded the plane in Luanda.

We took off from Luanda 20 minutes before the kick-off. To be honest, I could've scheduled my flight at a different time, but when I booked it I definitely wasn't thinking of the World Cup. Not very patriotic I know, but if you think that merely a month ago I've never watched one full soccer game in my life, you could maybe understand why. Since I've started watching I've gone from "maybe I will watch more" to "soccer is definitely not for me"...and back to " I am really enjoying this now". Not the soccer game per se, but the vibe, the anticipation, the strong feeling of cohesion that we are experiencing in South Africa at this moment. If you have told me a month ago that I would stand with a lump in my throut hearing that Bafana Bafana have just scored their first goal against Mexico, I would not have believed you. If you have told me that I would have tears in my eyes hearing that they did not lose their first game, I would've felt insulted. But, despite my strange unexplainable emotions I felt on the plane while the captain announced all of this, I still couldn't "feel it". But this was soon to change....

When I landed in Johannesburg I had the weirdest feeling ever. Not only did I feel I was at home like I usually do when I come from abroad, but the electricity was there, it was real, at last I could "feel it". And I was only at the airport. I haven't even been outside on the streets or close to any stadiums, but I could feel the excitement in the air. Not even the Rugby World Cup that was hosted in South Africa created the same feeling. Everywhere people were wearing Bafana Bafana shirts, everyone was radiating this festive feeling and every now and then you could hear a vuvuzela from somewhere in the airport building. Bafana Bafana only drew their game, but the friendly faces that greeted me as I went through Immigration all the way past check-in again gave me another lump in my throat. I was thinking about the people of South Africa, the negative publicity this country gets because of a criminal element that we struggle to eradicate, and the ongoing negativity we have to endure from the doomsayers and media and I just shook my head in disbelieve. Here I was, a white person who was welcomed back by a black lady at Immigration with a "Welcome back to South Africa sir", a black woman at check-in asking me if I had enjoyed the game (she didn't realize at that point that I was on a flight at the time, but was equally disappointed when she heard), and the friendly black faces I met at The Wimpy when I ordered my homecoming Wimpy Burger and Chips, and all I could feel was warmth and friendliness. No matter what happens here, what people say about the ongoing feud between blacks and whites, THIS is my country, THIS is my home, and THIS is where I want to be. There are definitely more good people in this country than bad. All of a sudden I felt really bad for not wearing a yellow Bafana Bafana shirt, but I knew I still had time to make up for it and I will for sure. If soccer could've opened my eyes for what we have here, I am sure it will do the same for many others in this beautiful country. It's here, feel it!

No comments:

Post a Comment