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World Cup Blog

Netherlands, Brazil, Ghana and Uruguay prepare for the quarter finals

(Photo: Reuters)

As the Netherlands, Brazil, Ghana and Uruguay limber-up for the quarter finals, RFI's Paul Myers asks whether football will be the winner in South Africa. Is Nelson Mandela right - can sport create hope where there was only despair? Or will we just be left with the victors and the vanquished?

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Quarter finals. The last eight. Tension, pressure, glory, despair and that’s just me on the way to the breakfast room.

Well you’ve got to keep your sense of humour. It’s a shame that of all the things the hawkers are selling they don’t offer something like that at a knockdown price.

Everything is negotiable. That hair band for your daughter? ‘’You don’t want to pay 150 rand? Make me a price.”

Well, today there are no negotiables. There will be the victors and the vanquished. Let’s hope that football will be the winner.

The Netherlands v Brazil and then Ghana v Uruguay. Will we have the first African team to reach a world cup semi? Will the Brazilians cut up the ribbons of Orange flowing through midfield?

Will Uruguay overcome 40 years of underachievement? Questions. Answers later, after the heat of battle.

Before they all kick off and kick bits out of each other, the players will unite to deliver a message against racism and any other form of bias.

Each team captain will read out a declaration condemning any discrimination in football and society.

The teams and match officials will pose alongside a banner: “Say no to racism”.
Yes, I know it’s the bleeding obvious. But, you know, some places have actually gone in for a two-tier society.

The blog has eschewed the political during the past couple of weeks. And there’s a certain element of wisdom in that approach. South Africa is too complex for a neophyte interloper like myself to till the injustices.

Sepp Blatter, the boss of world football’s governing body Fifa, may be a bit of a sap in certain aspects of the running of the game, but respect to him in that he has been a stallion as he’s strived to bring a world cup to Africa.

“It is part of our social responsibility to use our competitions to raise awareness of the pressing social issues of the day,” he said. ‘’The players’ voices help us amplify this message and the call for solidarity, respect and fair play.”

I saw Clint Eastwood’s film Invictus a couple of months ago. Another majestic work from the man.

I am not about to query the accuracy of the portrayal, but one thing is evident. What those South Africans had to tolerate was barbaric.

Many commentators say things haven’t changed for huge sections of the society since black majority rule was cemented.

Danny Jordaan, the head of the organising committee, has had to defend the spending on stadiums and infrastructure rather than social housing projects, for example.

But he counters that by citing the billions of rand pumped into the country from extra visitors. And, he adds, people who leave the place satisfied generate ultimately much more than money.

Jordaan said a few days ago at his breakfast pow-wow, a lack of infrastructure was one of the ploys of the apartheid regime.

The site for that early morning gathering was a stone’s throw from a giant statue of Nelson Mandela in Mandela Square.

Now, how likely was that piazza 25 years ago?

Mandela says sport can create hope where there was only despair.

And if he thinks it. That’s good enough for me.

We’ve all come to South Africa to watch the football and soak up the atmosphere. At the very least I’m leaving with some trinkets for my girls, a Jabulani for me and my boy and a few vuvuzelas for my loud sister and nephew.

What I’ll also take away is a clearer understanding that there’s a fairer adventure underway.

And that should remain non-negotiable.

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