Rob Gaylard - 2011-04-06 Untitled Document
Title: The Vuvuzela Revolution: Anatomy of South Africa’s World Cup
Authors: Richard Calland, Lawson Naidoo and Andrew Whaley
Click here to buy The Vuvuzela Revolution from Kalahari.net.
There were of course as many 2010 World Cups as there were spectators or participants. This is an engaging, entertaining account of “our” World Cup as experienced by three close friends and associates with a genuine interest in football, for whom this was one hell of a road trip. They construct an accessible narrative of their experience, and manage to avoid weighing it down with too many statistics or too much analysis. We follow them around the country as they go wherever their pre-purchased team tickets took them. We relive some of the defining moments of the World Cup – such as the Black Stars’ agonising loss to Uruguay (cheated out of victory by the hand of Suarez). The “beautiful game” has its ugly side, it seems.
Nevertheless, despite their determination to “have a jol”, all three narrators are quite serious people, and they naturally reflect on some of the serious questions raised by the World Cup. What is the transformative, nation-building potential of these great sporting events – and why are we often (always?) left afterwards clutching the straws of disappointment (the “legacy” question)? As South Africans we’ve had several of these transformative moments. Where have they left us? High and dry?
What, in material terms, was the lasting impact of the World Cup (in terms of stadiums, transport systems, tourism, internet connectivity, etc) – and does this justify the cost (an estimated R40 million to the taxpayer)? Who walked away with the profits? (This is a no-brainer – FIFA of course.).
What about the (perhaps more important) intangible benefits resulting from a massive shift in global perceptions about South Africa? A virtual rebranding of South Africa took place as the world in effect received a “30-day South African infomercial”.
More importantly, perhaps, how did the World Cup change our perceptions of ourselves? Arguably, it gave us “a taste of an imagined country”, showed what might be possible if we all came together. This raises a serious political question: stadiums were built on time, security was provided for 400 000 visitors, public transport systems were overhauled, partly because the government was accountable to a very insistent FIFA (and partly because there was unity of purpose and a real urgency to deliver). Why can’t we as South African citizens hold our government to account and insist (for example) that they fix the education system, or the health service, or provide safe and efficient public transport?
These and other questions arise naturally from the passionate engagement of three South Africans (Richard, Lawson, and “Drewza”, who probably wouldn’t pass the Manyi test of representivity) with the 2010 World Cup. Apart from a few slightly earnest “soapbox moments” they resist the temptation to hold forth or lecture to their audience. It is a narrative of a journey that many (mainly middle-class?) South Africans will relate to – a reminder of that watershed moment (11 June 2010) when we all “felt it”, stuck flags or mirror socks on our cars, braved public transport, and found ourselves walking the Fanwalk and cheering for Bafana Bafana – or BaGhana BaGhana.
The World Cup may have “dragged soccer out of the ghetto”’ – but what the majority of (black, working-class, soccer-crazy, vuvuzela- blowing, township-dwelling) South African football supporters made of all this, we never really discover. That would, of course, be a different story! And quite how a plastic instrument manufactured in China came to be emblematic of our South African identity we never discover either.
The book has a nice, fresh, hot-off-the-press feel about it, is illustrated with the authors’ own pictures – and buying it won’t break the bank.
- An abbreviated version of this review appeared in the Argus on 28 March 2011.