South Africa

There’s been some good and some bad; it hasn’t quite been an unabashed success but it hasn’t turned into a complete disaster… yet. There’s no question the World Cup is occupying the broad space between tragedy and triumph and it doesn’t seem to be calming down with security strikes continuing and team drama on and off the pitch developing. This Guardian article captures the state of the World Cup in South Africa really well. A genuine sense of patriotic joy and pride, plus an overwhelming, and I’d probably say excessive if they weren’t so entertaining, amount of World Cup themed merchandise, advertisements and promotions, has made it quite enjoyable to be in South Africa for the tournament. But this is tempered by the cold weather, the unavoidable fact that the tournament and all the lavish spending and new infrastructure built will not benefit and may even have an adverse affect on many South Africans, and the fact that for all its beautiful sights, diverse peoples and fascinating history, this land, including Durban, is not truly safe enough for visitors, not to mention many locals, to really walk around and explore it by themselves.

An interesting dynamic of this World Cup is that it’s the first to be held in Africa. With South Africa, the continent’s main “power” hosting it, the pan-African vibe has been solid enough, at least with the state TV commentators who often emphasize the African teams when broadcasting their matches. Unfortunately it seems the Africa teams haven’t gotten the message that it’s their stage to shine, or conversely they’ve had this message hammered into them too much. Either way, with Cameroon having lost tonight and being the first nations to crash out, only Ghana stands a reasonable chance to advance into the second stage. The Ivory Coast plays Brazil tomorrow in their second match, and a good result might see them likely to advance as well. Nigeria and South Africa will probably exit, which would be doubly embarassing and disappointing for the home team.