Mandy Latimore can tap her feet! I discovered this whilst perched on the wheelchair stand at the Coca – Cola dome, as we rocked to the nostalgic sounds of the Masters of Rock - the 60’s and 70’s legends Wishbone Ash, Uriah Heep and, of course, Deep Purple.
As a former “rock star wanna be” (remember - I was just a swimmer in a rock n’ roll band) I was stunned by how well these old rockers still played. Their energy was amazing and, despite all the bands having gone through numerous personnel changes over the years, they blazed their respective trails into the hearts of what looked largely like an old apartheid gathering. That because the audience were mainly white and yes, average age - fifty!
I was in my element! Wishbone Ash still raised the hairs with their eerie rendition of Throw down the sword. Heep’s great moment came with July Morning and, of course, Deep Purple reminded us of their status with a searing version of the great rock anthem, Smoke on the water. Memories of good times flooded back, not to mention that I once actually stayed at the Grand Hotel on the Lake Geneva shoreline! The concert was a blast and set the mood as a curtain raiser to the event that lurked around the corner, the FIFA 2010 World Cup!
Just on six years ago, on a chilly Saturday morning, I was on my way to Vodacom, Midrand, for FIFA’s much awaited announcement as to who would be hosting their 2010 extravaganza. Could it be us this time? We had been denied the 2006 event via a fickle FIFA member, Charles Dempsey. Was there enough confidence in South Africa? The political situation had moved on but the situation was still tense. Sure, the lobbyists had gained much experience in the previous campaign and a champion in the form of Danny Jordaan had come to the fore. The heavyweights had all convened in Switzerland to await the moment. On final approach to the celebration venue, my phone rang, a good friend and journalist calling from Switzerland. “Its in the bag, Scotty. Go party!”
I walked into Vodaworld finding it difficult to contain myself. I rounded up some special folk and beamed at them, “First one’s on me!” An hour later I was accused of knowing, I had got one up on them for sure!
I am mindful of so many things that happened whilst waiting for the World Cup to arrive. Mostly I remember the negativity that so many South Africans expressed. “We will never be ready”, “the violence will keep visitors away”, “we can’t deal with the transport”, “the airports will never handle it”, blah, blah and more blah!
I never batted an eyelid. I knew we would be ready and wow, how ready we were! If the last month has not proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that this nation can rise to a challenge, then I will carry out Maradona’s threat and run around the park naked. Thank goodness Argentina didn’t win!
So what of the FIFA World Cup 2010? An unbelievable experience in most ways. I say “most” as I think that Bafana Bafana were a disappointment. All this talk about nation building smacks of South Africa’s ability to celebrate mediocrity!
However, the team cannot shoulder the blame alone. It would be interesting to analyse SAFA’s performance over the six years leading up to the World Cup. The sponsorships from the likes of ABSA and SAB were exceedingly generous when compared to that of many other teams. The fact that they were on home soil, before home crowds, should also have been a catalyst that at least took them into the final sixteen!
This was, after all, the World Cup where the mission was to win and not simply to compete!
I am thrilled at the unification of our nation but attribute this to the World Cup being staged in our country and not to the poor performance of our National Team.
Many will examine the performances of the superstars of the bigger teams. Questions will once again surface about monetary rewards from top European clubs and what it is that motivates players. England and France both arrived with a certain amount of arrogance and departed with their tails between their legs. The nett earnings of their players is probably more than the total of the last 24 teams (bar Italy and Spain) put together. It is mind-boggling that these superstar teams didn’t rise to the challenge. The Dutch and the Germans showed how effective the nurturing of a team can be by deposing the big guns - including Brazil and Argentina (my predictions argh!)
I was so very privileged to be at the opening and final games at Soccer City, two days that will remain indelibly imprinted on my memory for more than just the football. I am now a part of the unique band who can lay claim to having been at the Rugby (1995), Cricket (2003) and Football (2010) World Cup Finals, all in the same city!
As the final whistle screamed out to celebrate Spain’s 1 - 0 victory over the Dutch, I heard the bah bah bah, bah bah bah bah emanating from the thousands of vuvuzelas. Was it Smoke on the water? I saw Mandy there. I’ll bet she was tapping those feet again!
Can the legacy of 2010 be the start of a unified South Africa?
Lets hope so!