Of soccer and society

Many things in life simply pass me by without any thought of a second glace. Last night, though, I saw something that will stay with me for a long time – and in a good way.

Three children, two white and one black, walked along the outside of the Moses Mabhida Stadium. They couldn’t have been more than eight ro nine years old. The one was wearing a Kaizer Cheifs shirt, the other two wearing AmaZulu replica kits. They were laughing as the one kid tried in vain to blow a vuvuzela.  They paused and tried to teach him how to do it. He tried again – and failed. They laughed again and moved on to their seats.

There’s not much in this story, to be honest. It’s just kids having a jol together at a soccer match. I wonder, though, if I would have seen this if I wasn’t at the Moses Mabhida Stadium… If last night’s PSL match between Chiefs and AmaZulu was played at, say, Lamontville, or at the Princess Magogo Stadium, if two white kids would have been there. I strongly doubt it.

If nothing else, the 2010 World Cup at least got a new breed of fans into the stadiums that, perhaps, wouldn’t have gone if those new stadiums hadn’t been built and if there hadn’t been that hype.

Now I know that sport isn’t going to heal the divides we have in this country. I know that sport isn’t going to erase the memories of a system of government that neglected the majority in the favour of the minority. I do also know, though, that it does make a difference and allows people to look beyond issues of race and class – even if it’s just for 90 minutes.

Quoting Nelson Mandela is clichéd (and I hate clichés) but I’m going to anyway:

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”

We’ve seen during the Rugby World Cup that a nation got behind the Springbok, an anthem that is accociated with the hurt of the past. But in that moment, the Springbok was nothing but hope; a symbol of a nation wanting nothing more than to share in the glory of victory and of being able to say, “We’re the best.” Even at the stadium last night, Springbok jerseys were spotted regularly.

Sport and society. You’ll be amazed at what difference sport can make to society. Go watch a PSL game and see for yourself.

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