Saturday, July 3, 2010

The People Shall Govern

The Soccer World Cup is drawing to an end, and to say that it's been an emotional roller-coaster would be an under-statement.

Admittedly it started off with a fair amount of trepidation for most South Africans, myself included.
There were whisperings of safety concerns both for the visitors to our shores and the locals.
There were hushed tones of the World Cup being a disaster of truly African proportions. For a while the doomsayers seemed to have the upper hand. We watched and waited anxiously as foreigners began buying up tickets to an event which many of us would possibly never again see on our continent, in our lifetimes.
We were willing to take that chance.
The power of pessimism seemed to rule supreme.
Those who had attempted the farcical online ticket-purchase process created by those demigods of idiocity, or FIFA as most refer to them as, were quick to brag about the seats they had secured.
Nobody seemed impressed, and quite frankly nobody cared.
As South Africans who are accustomed to doing things our way, we always knew we would be able to buy tickets when we wanted, as we wanted, even at the very last minute.
Talk of the stringent controls FIFA had put in place for the resale of tickets did nothing to deter us.
Besides, years of attending the Rand Easter Show had prepared us for attending events at the eleventh hour and getting the best parking available at the lowest price possible, and sometimes even gaining access for free!
As far as we were concerned, the Soccer World Cup was just going to be a bigger, better Rand Easter Show.

FIFA and the LOC (Local Organising Commitee) soon realised that the South African public were not snapping up tickets as they had hoped.
What did they expect when they opened sales only online, while the vast majority of soccer lovers in the country had no access to the internet? (For the foreigners reading this, please note that this is not meant to imply that South Africa has no broadband internet, or any other form of internet. It merely means that the majority of South Africans are low income earners, and the equally vast majority of internet service providers have combined to make South Africa one of the most expensive places in the world to use any form of internet access).

So effectively FIFA and the brainiacs at the LOC spent millions of Rands on strategy and planning as regards ticket sales prior to the World Cup and they concluded that they needed to sell millions of tickets to millions of fans,and the best possible way to do this would be to exclude the majority of potential buyers.Millions of them.
You with me so far?
Good; because it gets more interesting.

The marketing people at FIFA and the LOC then decided to try and fool the public by saying that tickets were selling fast, and almost 90% had already been sold.
Still we weren't buying; neither their bullshit nor the tickets.
Finally Danny Jordaan and his sidekick Sepp Blatter acknowledged their oversight and decided to sell tickets over the counter, like they should have done from the very beginning.
Thats when sales literally exploded and people waited in queues for hours and days to buy what they wanted, as they wanted, and when they wanted.
The power of the consumer had beaten the shortsightedness of the demigods.
Before the first ball of the World Cup had been kicked, the score was already on the boards.
South African Public 1 - FIFA 0.

Suddenly the nation was galvanized and spurred into action.
Everybody and their donkey was scampering for tickets.
This time it really was a big deal if you had secured seats to the stadiums.
People began selling tickets to friends and family, and ultimately complete strangers, against FIFA's stringent ticket-sale regulations.
South African Public 2 - FIFA 0.

By this point those very same demigods must surely have realised that Africa had it's own set of rules, and they seemed to work.
Don't re-invent the wheel simply because you can. Adapt and it will roll more smoothly.
This is Africa, and thats how we roll!

Moving ahead to the filled stadiums and the huge fanfare that the World Cup has now become, it seems quite obvious that the optimists had taken the bull by the horns and were not letting go, not for all the gold in King Solomons mines. The country was on a high and we stood behind our national team, Bafana Bafana.
They had more support than our rugby players or cricket players ever had, and this without having won any World Cup trophies as the two former teams had.
No disrespect to the Proteas or the Springboks, both of whom we love and admire unconditionally.
It was amazing to watch individuals and corporates get behind the nations team and sing with one voice, the voice of the Vuvuzela.

It became mandatory for every South African to own a Vuvuzela, and know how to blow it.
It became the sound that defined the Soccer World Cup.
It required very little practice, and swiftly crossed all racial and language barriers.
The irony is that this single item, probably the most cheaply priced of all soccer paraphernalia, has come to define the 2010 Soccer World Cup more than the official mascot products courtesy of Zakumi.
Zakumi was intended to be the mascot of the games and every conceivable money-spinning merchandising opportunity was pounced on by FIFA and the LOC.
They spent millions on design and product placement for all manner of Zakumi merchandise.
I recall reading an article where a forum was opened to gather the publics views on Zakumi.
The general consensus was that the public hated it.
There was no consultation between the powers that be and the nation on it's mascot for the largest sporting event ever to be hosted on our shores.
They went ahead anyways, thinking the public would come around to the idea.
Have you noticed how seldom Zakumi is now displayed or paraded as a mascot at the stadiums?
The nation had voted with its pockets once more.
The Vuvuzela was our mascot.
The Vuvuzela had defined the games for us.
Foreigners followed by example, and every nations fans bought into the Vuvuzela; every departing nations fans left with a smile on their faces and a Vuvuzela tucked under their arms.
South African Public 3 -  FIFA 0

I turned the radio on the other day and the DJ was playing the song that has come to epitomise the tournament.
It got my feet tapping and I sang along to every word.
I suspect the drivers on either side of me were listening to the same song.
Waving Flag by K'naan.
This wasn't intended to be the theme song for the world cup.
Somehow, somewhere, Shakira whom I adore was chosen to sing the official song.
Waka Waka.
Sounds great, but again the nation had adopted it's own song, and no matter how they tried to force Waka Waka upon us, it just was not going to be.
I'm not sure how Shakira was contracted to FIFA for the song, but I assume they expected huge royalties as they usually do, from the sale of the album and all its downloads.
Imagine their surprise when the nation once again voted with their pockets and we chose Waving Flag to be the song that defined our World Cup.
South African Public 4 - FIFA 0


I suspect when FIFA and the rest of it's circus finally leave our country, they will have learnt a few lessons of their own.
I would like to think that they will look back on one of the most successful Soccer World Cups ever, and realise that the nation had embraced the beautiful game and made the event our own.
We did it our way.

Yes we truly are grateful that FIFA had selected South Africa as the hosts for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
But it was South Africa and her people that took an event and made it a historic occasion.
To all the nations and their fans who visited our beautiful land, I say salute and thank you for looking beyond the negative press reports prior to the first whistle blown.
Thank you for going back to your home countries and being brand ambassadors for mother Africa.

Lastly, to those who left our shores to run for the hills for fear that South Africa was destined for anarchy, I wonder how terribly you yearn to be here among the believers and optomists?
To hold hands and sing and chant for Bafana Bafana, and Ghana, and ultimately any team that wins this World Cup.

The tournament may end soon, but the pride of the country will forever live on.

This is Africa's time.... and we have achieved!