Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Cup 2010 Opens Eyes to Africa

World Cup opens eyes to Africa

June 24, 2010

World Cup soccer coverage is opening our eyes to a country and continent that have remained unknown to most of us.

Our knowledge of South Africa has been largely limited to the horrors of apartheid and the triumph of Nelson Mandela. What we know of modern history in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa is a tragic mix of starvation, genocide, AIDS and political instability. For the first time, we are seeing Sub-Saharan Africa as remarkably diverse, with gifted musicians and artists, eloquent leaders and a cultural richness we had never imagined.

Every story about a soccer match includes a small snippet on local entertainment or a prominent figure, a photo of magnificent scenery or bustling city streets. There are fascinating bits of history, both ancient and modern, and descriptions of everyday life in both urban and rural areas. This is an Africa we have never seen, and we are enthralled.

We have been far too familiar with the Sub-Saharan Africa that suffered horribly during and following the collapse of European colonialism. We have wept for the victims of disease, starvation and violence. Many of us have donated to charities on behalf of those victims, perhaps wondering if our help was doing any good, the need was so great.

There are still many parts of Africa where help is desperately needed. But perhaps instead of imposing our view of what would help, as we have been inclined to do with Africa in the past, we will adopt a more respectful stance and discuss what is needed with representatives of countries receiving aid – as we would do with any other equal partner going through bad times.

This new relationship will not be one-sided. We are quickly becoming acquainted with countries and cultures that have a lot to share with the rest of the world in terms of political ideas, concepts, social reform, fashion, and of course sports.

For the first time we are struck by the feeling that instead of being one vast morass of strife with no hope and no future, Sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to solve its problems and move forward. We do not need to haul out our crystal balls to confidently predict the impact of this summer's World Cup will be far reaching.

We are also aware of colours and sounds that are filled with a vibrant intensity that is new to us but characteristic of the traditions of South Africa. Speaking of sounds, there is one that most Canadians were blissfully ignorant of prior to the World Cup – the demented hornet buzz of a thousand vuvuzelas. This South African noisemaker has become the unofficial symbol of the games, a joyously ear-splitting racket that annoys some but is impossible to forget.
Get out your ear plugs, because they will showing up here. A South African horn, made in China, in a Southwestern Ontario hockey arena. Go, team, go! Buzzzzzzz!

– Wingham Advance Times

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