It all started on a normal summer’s day a few years back. I was sitting in the passenger seat while my mom was driving her old red VW City Golf. She suddenly stopped driving, not even pulling over, but just stopping dead where she was. I turned around and noticed that all the cars had done the exact same thing. It looked like a scene from a movie. Everyone in their cars turned up the volume of their radios, allowing the sound to pour into the streets and meet, creating one big broadcast. A formal voice was talking, and then said the words everyone was waiting for: “...and the 2010 Soccer World Cup will be hosted by....”
The pause before he announced the country felt like a pause in time – everything was so quiet and still that you could hear your own heart beating.
The streets came alive. The cars were hooting, the people in the cars were screaming, South Africa was smiling. We were about to experience something that not a lot of people will ever get to experience in their life, and we were going to make the most of it. Together. We were going to be the people who are able to say: “I was there.”
As the world cup drew closer, the excitement could be felt in the air. It felt as if the cold winters wind blew hard and spread it from person to person. The soccer jerseys were out, and for the high-heeled-wearing-David-Beckham-loving girls, so were the “Soccer For Dummies” guides. We could all feel it, it was here. The streets were packed with people spreading their excitement, blowing their Vuvuzelas as loud as they could a day before the opening ceremony. If you hadn’t been in the country for longer than a week, you could have never guessed that just days ago were media frenzies about the politics in this country: that there was such a tension between the people of different races that live in this country. No, because there on the street corners – blowing the Vuvuzelas and filling the air with laughter – was men and women of all races, and all ages sharing the experience together. All differences were put aside, and Julius Malema was definitely out of mind. There we were, along with all the foreign tourists, a nation: united by the Vuvuzela.
And so it began... As the first whistle blew, allowing the world to know that the first game of the 2010 World Cup was in play, so did the partying. I will never forget sitting in the bar watching my country on TV play in the opening game. The tension was shared between every single person in that bar. One Goal. That’s all we were waiting anxiously for. And suddenly...
Everyone jumped up. Friends were screaming together, strangers were hugging, drinks were flowing. I felt, for one of the first times in my life, proudly South African: a concept we have been hearing in our country for years. A concept we were supposed to be a part of. But until that exact moment of our first goal scored – I had never felt the unity. I had never felt ‘proudly South African’. We didn’t win that game, but wow, we partied all night as if we did. And that is how the rest of the world cup went – one month full of such diverse people coming together to create one big party. The days were nerve wrecking as we waited anxiously to support our teams, and after each game (and after the smiles were shared and the tears were shed), we would dance the night away into the new day... and then when the next game was on, we’d do it again.
We didn’t win the world cup, but as a nation we had done something that meant much more that winning a soccer game. We pulled it off. People from all over the world came together here and celebrated winnings together, and supported each other through losses. We showed the world that yes – we CAN do it. In fact, we can do anything. The haters, the doubters, the cynics, and the faithless – I don’t hear them speaking up now? No, because they know. We all know. Our country didn’t win the world cup, but we are winners. We pulled it off, all because we came together. Our nation truly was united. United by the Vuvuzela.