7 April 2010
“We are waiting … It is time for the people to stop putting us down and to come see for themselves that Africa can do it.” So says Gordon Mokonyane, Johannesburg resident, family man, Orlando Pirates fan – and supporter of the 2010 Fifa World Cup™ South Africa.
Like many football-crazy South Africans, Mokonyane has been waiting impatiently since 15 May 2004, when it was announced that the Fifa World Cup would be heading to African soil for the first time in its 80-year history.
If you are a Johannesburg resident, you might have seen Mokonyane. He is one of those people who tries to make a living selling mobile phone chargers, caps and sunglasses at busy intersections.
He is one of those people who most of the time is ignored. But he’s not fussed, as they say here. “It is a job. It lets me put food on the table for my wife and daughter, and I get to spend the whole day outdoors.”
Mokonyane seems to have a permanent smile on his face, but it is when the subject of football is broached that his eyes truly light up.
Mokonyane is a supporter of top-flight Premier Soccer League team Orlando Pirates, as evidenced by his faded black kit, which he wears most days as he trades at different intersections around Johannesburg’s traffic-heavy northern suburbs.
He doesn’t get to watch as many live football games as he would like, “but sometimes it is better to earn money than to enjoy yourself,” he says with a nod and a wink.
Mokonyane’s forward-thinking manner has served him well though, as he recently found out that his brother-in-law’s ticket applications were successful and that he will be able to take his wife to two World Cup matches.
“We are going to go watch Argentina against Korea Republic at Soccer City and Slovenia against the USA at Ellis Park,” he says. “It’s not Bafana Bafana or Brazil, my two favourite teams, but I don’t care. This is our World Cup, and I will be there.”
He does admit, however, that seeing a player like Lionel Messi in the flesh will be a highlight for him.
“For many people like me in South Africa, soccer is a way to escape. We live it,” he said as he stepped out into the road, winding through the afternoon rush hour traffic, flashing his trademark smile at a passing car.
Mokonyane will be at the World Cup, and it is because of people like him that Africa’s first World Cup will long be remembered.