Monday, July 12, 2010

Postings from Pretoria #36

12 July 2010

Hello there... Rodger French here.

World Cup Report #Last

When South Africa was awarded the 2010 World Cup, many observers were skeptical as to whether an African nation was ready to host such a massive undertaking. In addition, more than a few South Africans were asking, with justification, whether hosting a ginormous sporting event was worth the expense and disruption when the country faces so many seemingly intractable problems. One day after conclusion, that remains a very open question.

The fact is, however, that South Africa has pulled it off with great respectability and should be heartily commended. Not that everything went flawlessly. People were displaced by stadia construction. Local businesses and vendors were shut down by closures and FIFA edicts. Major transportation SNAFUs occurred, much to the detriment of many ticket holders. And while there were no reported World Cup-related deaths or serious injuries, the crime situation remained problematic, with many tourists – and more than a few players - falling victim to theft. But overall, it must be said – again – that the 2010 World Cup was a great success. I miss it already.

In particular, the actual futbol matches. I took in at least part of all 64 matches and watched the entirety of a couple dozen; that’s more futbol in one month than I’ve seen or am likely to see… well, ever. I feel I’ve developed an appreciation of the game and the tremendous skill and stamina required to play at such a high level. And I believe the best team won. Spain has a very technical and graceful style and, IMHO, deserves to be champs. (Personally, I think the Spain-Germany semi-final was one of the best sporting matches – of any kind - I’ve ever witnessed.)

[Sidebar - I will never forget the consummate grief I felt when Ghana failed to advance to the semis due an egregious (though allowable) violation by Uruguay and a missed penalty kick. That one I lost sleep over. But the Ghanaians, who were shouldering the futbol hopes of Africa, responded with great grace and credited themselves immensely.]

I will also miss coming into the Embassy in the morning and getting into random conversations about the previous days matches with everyone in sight. It seems a cliché, but individuals (and pretty much the whole nation, I believe) really did find some common ground, however briefly, over a simple game. It is a good feeling to try to hang on to as we suffer through the inevitable period of futbol withdrawal.

[Spurious World Cup Notes – Official Edition]

Official Song – “Waka Waka,” an inoffensive ditty made immeasurably more tolerable when performed onstage by Shakira. But then, everything goes better with Shakira.

Official Dance – The “Diski” dance, which you’ve never heard of because it was (a) devised by professional dancers, (b) consisted of 25 separate moves, and (c) could only be performed by professional dancers. Think “Electric Slide” on steroids. Not a big hit.

Official Mascot – “Zakumi,” a stuffed leopard with green hair imported by the zillions from our Chinese overlords.

And, courtesy of the good ol’ USA:

Official Beer – Budweiser. (Sigh.) I know money talks, but with a world of actual good beer to choose from…

Official Soft Drink – …speaking of soda pop, it’s Coca-Cola.

Official Unhealthy Fast Food – Say it with me: McDonalds

And the best, thoroughly unofficial T-shirt slogan of the 2010 World Cup: “FICK FUFA.”