The national flag flew high during the World Cup.
(Image: Bongani Nkosi)
Although the spirit of the 2010 Fifa World Cup has touched South Africa in many significant ways, the legacy of unity is above all else for Dr Irvin Khoza, chairperson of the tournament’s Local Organising Committee.
Never before have we seen South Africans so united, Khoza said during an emotional address at a press briefing in Johannesburg on 12 July. “Today we talk about South Africans of all colours saying our team, our country.”
Flags and fan gear
The national flag became a phenomenon during the month-long spectacle and was flown with pride by South Africans of all races and creeds. Just about every car on the road seemed to have one attached to its rooftop.
Public and private organisations came to the party as well and displayed the country’s flag on their building façades. It was also a prominent feature at many events in the run-up to the World Cup.
But it wasn’t only our colours that stood out: in the spirit of welcoming the world to the country, flags of all 32 participating nations were hoisted in many places. This turned the streets, stadiums and other public venues into a sea of vibrancy.
Then there was the green and yellow Bafana Bafana gear, which became a popular fashion item before and during the tournament. South Africans wore the shirts, especially on Fridays, to show the team they were behind it.
“Never before have you seen so many people wearing Bafana’s jersey and flying their flag,” said Khoza.
The two trends were inspired by the Fly the Flag and Football Fridays campaigns initiated by the International Marketing Council. The organisation distributed as many flags as it could around the country, while South Africans went all out to buy the official Bafana shirts made by Adidas. This was no small investment, as they sell for anything between R550 (US$73) and R900 ($120). Locals also bought their own flags to display.
George Chauke, from Giyani in Limpopo province, became one of the ultimate supporters by adorning his car with 261 flags of different countries, including those which didn’t participate in the World Cup. He spent a whopping R7 500 ($996) on the flags.
Khoza, one of the top football administrators in the country, was deeply moved by the enthusiasm shown.
“It has touched all South Africans ‒ even those who do not follow football,” he said.
Nicknamed the “Iron Duke”, Khoza is also vice-president of the South African Football Association, and chairperson of the Premier Soccer League and Orlando Pirates ‒ a highly respected local team.
Mandela at Soccer City
The date 11 July 2010, when the World Cup final was played, was significant as it marked the 47th anniversary of the arrest of the Rivonia Treason Trialists, Khoza said at the press briefing.
The group captured by apartheid police on 11 July 1963 consisted of a number of senior African National Congress members ‒ all heavily involved in the liberation struggle. They included Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Denis Goldberg and Arthur Goldreich.
Although Nelson Mandela was not part of the initial group, he was later implicated in its anti-apartheid activities and forced to stand trial with the others. All 10 of the accused went to prison.
During the trial Mandela was charged with sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island. He was released 27 years later and soon became the country’s ultimate hero and president of the newly democratic South Africa.
It is in this context that Khoza spoke of the appearance of Mandela, now frail and in his nineties, at Soccer City before the final World Cup match was played between Spain and the Netherlands.
“The crowning experience was when Madiba came onto the pitch,” said Khoza.
The football boss was also touched by the sight of a jubilant Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu at the final. “For 90 minutes he was dancing and not watching the game,” Khoza said, adding that the last time he saw Tutu rejoicing like that was in 1994, after he cast his vote in South Africa’s first democratic elections.