Thursday, June 10, 2010

Africa and the Beautiful Game: World Cup 2010 in South Africa? Yes we can!

Draft Version: Updates to follow

I grew up in a country (USA) where the sport of football (soccer) has struggled for decades to gain national attention, although as a youth I had the privilege to play on a soccer team at middle school for a few seasons like many American children. I now live in a country (Germany) where the sport of ‘Fussball’ is practically a religion (garnering more fans than the Pope on any given Sunday). I have experienced the overwhelming joy and excitement when the World Cup comes to town (FIFA World Cup 2006 Germany).

When Germany was awarded the honor of hosting the FIFA World Cup 2006 it was widely believed that South Africa (and the continent of Africa as a whole) had been cheated by FIFA executives and their powerful commercial and political friends and heads of national football associations here in Europe. To learn more about how FIFA works and the (alleged) corruption charges faced by its executive body and particularly the FIFA President Sepp ‘Gangsta’ Blatter, checkout the 2006 documentary by BBC’s award-winning investigative news program Panaroma “The Beautiful Bung: Corruption and the World Cup” and read the reports by investigative journalist Andrew Jennings at the Transparency in Sports website (see related articles at the end of this post). As I do not want to dwell on the negative aspects of The Beautiful Game and the clearly criminal organization that controls it worldwide (FIFA), let’s move on to why I am writing about the World Cup 2010 in South Africa today.

Any American who has friends and relatives from a football-loving nation knows when the discussion moves to soccer the United States is always at a disadvantage; this is especially true when the World Cup competition rolls around. Team USA is the quadrennial underdog in the eyes of most of the world’s soccer fans, many claiming that the American team has about a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning a World Cup trophy in my lifetime. The constant kidding and ridicule of the U.S. National Men’s Soccer Team from my European and African friends of course makes me love the U.S. boys that much more.  The U.S. National Women's Soccer Team gets a lot more respect here in Europe and across the globe due to their winning record in international competition over the years.

Every four years during the days and weeks leading up to the final countdown to the opening game of the FIFA World Cup there is a huge amount of outrageous boasting and threats of (bloodless) combat on the soccer pitch as the world’s finest national football teams meet to compete for the golden trophy valued above all other sports trophies in the world. So my question to you, my readers out there all over the globe, are you excited that the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is finally here? I’m ready!

So are more than 136,000 American soccer fans who will be attending the World Cup 2010 in South Africa, more visitors from any other country in the world outside of the host nation. Millions more of 'US' around the world and back home in the States will be rooting not only for our boys but we shall also cheer for the “underdogs” from countries that according to many football experts and pundits don’t have a chance to make it through to the second round of play. I don't know about you but I am expecting a number of surprises and upsets in the World Cup 2010 games.

This year’s competition promises to be something very special, unlike any FIFA World Cup extravaganza in the history of the game. What has caught my attention while reading various articles and viewing TV news reports leading up to the opening of the games is the importance this year’s games has for people all across the African continent. A good example of the shear joy and excitement that the South Africa 2010 games has inspired in hundreds of millions of Africans from Cairo to Cape Town is portrayed in a commercial ad by the sportswear company Puma. If you are one of my readers who enjoyed the ARTE TV (France, Germany) video links contained in my previous post about Africa’s 50 years of independence from colonialsm, you will love this short video about African football:

PUMA: ‘Journey of Football’ online video ad
PUMA Football website (videos, blog, news, features)

These games are a very big deal for people all across the African continent, despite the many controversies and negative media coverage that has been directed at the South African organizers and government officials over the past years and months. As one of South Africa’s favorite sons Bishop Desmond Tutu has offered in a recent statement to the BBC News, the hosting of the World Cup 2010 proves to the world that Africans can successfully organize and host this extremely complicated (and yes expensive) international event. It is a ‘Yes We Can’ moment for nearly 1 billion people on the African continent. Personally, I never had any doubts that they could do it. So for the next four weeks, as time allows, I am going to sit back and thoroughly enjoy together with billions of people from all around the globe some the best sports (and cultural) entertainment on the planet.

Are you excited about the World Cup 2010 in South Africa yet? Get excited by taking some time to watch these games and embrace the outreach of humanity and love from all of Africa to the world.

“Football is the reason we have feet! We love this game.”

Related articles and resources for the World Cup 2010 South Africa

BBC World Service
World Cup 2010 Africa Kicks

BBC Sport Special
BBC SPORT - Football - World Cup 2010 (full coverage)
Piers Edwards’s African Football Blog
Piers Edwards’s Blog: Algeria eager to make up for lost time
Paul Fletcher's Blog: The father and son plotting England's downfall
Andrew Harding on Africa (World Cup 2010 and other Africa news)
Africa's abandoned football legend (Ndaye Mulambe of Zaire, D.R. Congo)

BBC Programmes: Panorama
The Beautiful Bung: Corruption and the World Cup by Andrew Jennings

Transparency in Sport
(personal website of BBC Panorama investigative journalist Andrew Jennings who broke the story on FIFA bribes and corruption in 2006)

The Guardian (UK)
Football: Panorama to investigate Fifa bosses
PUMA / Orange Africa Cup of Nations, ANGOLA 2010

The New York Times
New York Times Sports - World Cup 2010 (full coverage)
Special Report - 2010 World Cup - Soccer Returns to Its Roots in Africa
Can the U.S.A. beat England on Saturday?
NY Times Point/Counterpoint interactive feature

Kenyan Pundit (Ory Okolloh blogging from Johannesburg, S.A.)
Kenyan Pundit » On Loving Football
Renowned African blogger and Harvard Law School graduate Ory Okolloh tells what it was like growing up in Nairobi, Kenya with a football-crazed father.

Spiegel Online International (German news magazine, English edition)
The Reality of the Rainbow Nation: 16 Years after Apartheid, South Africa Fights for Its Future
World Cup Jitters: Excitement and Tension Run High in South Africa
Photo Gallery: The Passion and Pleasure of African Football
A New Slave Trade?: Europe's Thirst for Young African Footballers
Photo Gallery: Dreams of Europe
The Beautiful Game in Africa: 'Football Is the Reason We Have Feet'

Reuters Africa News
Image of a continent hangs on World Cup

CNN International
World Cup South Africa 2010 - Special Coverage on
CNN World Sport Goalmouth » 2010 World Cup blog
World Cup 2010 - TIME’s coverage of South Africa's festival of football
Fabio Fumes and the Diplomats Raise the — ahem — Steaks - World Cup 2010

Sports Illustrated Magazine (USA)
2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa (full coverage)

ESPN Sports TV Network (USA)
FIFA World Cup 2010 - Football / Soccer - ESPN Soccernet

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