Saturday, 12 June 2010

Off-Side at the World Cup

On Friday, South Africa took to the field against Mexico; and the World Cup was officially underway.

Everyone I do suppose to their own thing, but I’m no lover of this sport and this great event that seems to come round faster than Christmas, it will hypnotise millions, and in Britain it will be seen as a godsend and a sudden opportunity to make money, for the struggling boozer down the street.
In Canning Town, people have draped their homes out in flags and bunting while more and more cars fly the flag (cross of St George) with some kind of pride?

So amidst the tide of corporate-sponsored English nationalism which seems to find expression in crappy little mass produced St George’s flags that are already reappearing across the landscape, and I can now bear witness to this having lost count of property decked out, as I traveled to Cardiff yesterday, and surprisingly some Welsh homes are sporting the English flag.
England - still emblematic (Three Lions and a Crown) representative of the British Empire - play the symbolic representatives of the American Empire on 12 June - but one should I think still hold firm to a stress on 'the main enemy being at home', and perhaps lie back and think of those rich and powerful overlords who own and run BP and the damage their oil spill has done and is doing to the US coastline.

However let’s just focus on the host nation; for whenever I think of South Africa or hear and see that grand old man Nelson Mandela on the news, always I think back to the many times I took part in ante-apartheid demonstrations and protests some 26 years and more ago and after Nelson Mandela's improbable emergence from Victor Verster Prison into liberty and global adulation en route to entering the pantheon of statesmen.

South Africa is hosting arguably the greatest sporting tournament of them all, and yet, as the world is encouraged to ignore the bleak as it is unattractive, the indescribable privations of poverty in the modern era, which is a devastating fact of existence for the majority of people in contemporary Africa.

One of the great ironies of South Africa's hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is that it comes at a time when, and for all the pretensions of being the continent’s flagship state, South Africa resembles a thread that is being woven into the more prosaic African narrative. Between 1995 and 2002, life expectancy is estimated to have dropped from 61.4 years to 51.4 years; the average South African lifespan in 2015 will be 30% shorter than it was twenty years earlier. According to the United Nations Development Programme, an eye-watering 42.9% of South Africans are scraping by on a daily income of less than US$2; construction labourers who have worked on the World Cup venues will not be able to afford to enter the sports stadiums that are the creation of their sweat.

As the Anti-Privatization Forum of South Africa puts it!

“Our government has managed, in a fairly short period of time, to deliver 'world class' facilities and infrastructure that the majority of South Africans will never benefit from or be able to enjoy. The APF feels that those who have been so denied, need to show all South Africans as well as the rest of the world who will be tuning into the World Cup, that all is not well in this country, that a month long sporting event cannot and will not be the panacea for our problems. This World Cup is not for the poor -- it is the soccer elites of FIFA, the elites of domestic and international corporate capital and the political elites who are making billions and who will be benefiting at the expense of the poor."

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