Football fans and players are kicking and screaming in Johannesburg and around the world. The World Cup is underway!
I found a link on BBC Sports this morning of a video featuring Nelson Mandela's voice dubbed over music and video images from South Africa. His message was clear: he envisions a nation where black and white South Africans can live together in harmony, a “rainbow nation” at peace with itself and the world.
“We shall build a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity,” Nelson says in the video.
Click here and scroll down the page (midway down, right corner) to view the entire Mandela video.
From an economic and organizational standpoint, a successful World Cup will go a long way to prove that South Africa and the continent of Africa can successfully host an event as massive as the World Cup. This is the first World Cup played in Africa.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter is confident the World Cup will be a success.
In the above BBC article, Blatter said, "Everywhere, one can feel, I hope, that this World Cup is very special, the first on African soil. We find ourselves in a position of indescribable anticipation."
There is unfortunately an incredibly tragic fact from the BBC Sports story that makes Friday June 11 bittersweet: Nelson Mandela did not actually attend the opening ceremony because he was at the funeral of his thirteen-year-old great-granddaughter. She died in a car crash on Thursday, driving home from a pre-World Cup concert of all things. The family tragedy comes at a time when Mandela’s country is celebrating the years of struggle black South Africans like Mandela endured to achieve a position of political freedom.
Me (Bob) reflecting on the World Cup, Mandela's loss...
As I was sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Chicago watching the opening ceremonies and sipping on a $1.00 cup of coffee (thank you ING Direct Café!), a thought came to my mind. It might be cliche, but...Moments like the opening ceremony of the World Cup, or the opening ceremony of the Olympics prove that nations can indeed transcend rifts and differences, if even for a short period in time. I felt content and a bit reflective watching the end of the World Cup ceremony, knowing I was mysteriously connected somehow to the millions of other people around the world watching the same game. I thought of my college friend Francisco now living back in his hometown, Guadalajara Mexico; his country played South Africa in the inaugural game of the Cup (and tied the host country 1 to 1). I imagined myself in Mexico, watching the game with Francisco and his friends, perhaps sipping a Corona and cheering on players who represent the collective hope of millions of people.
Yet, I also can't help but reflect on the tragedy that hit the Mandela family this past week, only days before the World Cup. The car crash that killed the thirteen year old Mandela girl makes me uncomfortably aware that amidst every moment of intense celebration there exists the possibility of incredible pain. Imagine what Nelson Mandela is going through right now, the inner stirrings of a man who is probably overjoyed to see some of the fruits of his remarkable labor, and yet at a loss, coping with the death of a granddaughter who had so much more life in front of her. The tension of life, the drama that simply comes with living, manifests itself in an especially haunting way when someone dies young.
Tomorrow, I plan to watch England and the United States face off in each country's respected first round World Cup match. As much as I know I should cheer for the United States, I have a special place in my heart for the English---I spent for weeks in that country last summer living near Liverpool and Manchester bumming around Britain (I also did a week of volunteer work in between leisurely living). So I may very well drink a pint tomorrow and care little about what team actually wins the game, instead basking in the realization that millions of other people are also participating in some way in a spirit-filled sporting event. We just have to watch out for those rowdy Manchester fans---they might become spirit-filled after drinking too many spirits.
Enjoy (responsibly) watching the World Cup if you plan on doing so. And perhaps keep in mind the step forward this year’s Cup symbolizes for the host nation.
Nelson Mandela’s final words in the World Cup video offer a message of hope for future South African generations (and for generations from all nations and cultures who seek to work toward peace). He says, “The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.”
It is my hope that our world can continue to experience those metaphorical sunny skies Mandela describes–––and also my prayer that Nelson Mandela and his family will be filled with peace in this most bittersweet moment, one of triumph for South Africa and one of incredible loss in the Mandela family. May his great-granddaughter Zenani smile along with her family in a place filled with the peace Mandela has worked so tirelessly for in this life.
Cheers and peace,