Friday, June 18, 2010

No pap?? But this is South Africa!

Mexico's 2-0 win over France last meant that while it is mathematically still possible for Bafana to qualify for the knockout stages, it would require Bafana to score a glut of goals and hope that Mexico and Uruguay do not play for a draw (click here for the permutations). While President Jacob Zuma has said that he will be wearing his Bafana shirt today in support of the boys, the cracks are not only showing but gaping. Few people now believe that Bafana can still progress but they are clinging to a tattered hope.

Scouring the papers this morning, I came across a great, if somewhat cynical opinion piece in the Mail & Guardian by the South African film director Zola Maseko dispelling the myth that the World Cup (and the 1995 Rugby World Cup) has unified the Rainbow Nation. Of the 95 cup win, he writes: "That World Cup victory peddled the mischievous lie that centuries of racial hatred, economic exploitation and racial discrimination had been miraculously wiped away, in one fell swoop." He wants to see something more substantial than some simple flag-waving patriotism, arguing that "Wouldn't it be something to see 80,000 white South Africans go into the township and plant some trees? Or just sit and drink with their countrymen. No rugby. Just sharing, listening and understanding." I'm not sure how tree-planting would help nation-building but this dream will remain just that. There'll be a lot more of this kind of commentary in the months to come.

Last night while watching the the above game, my host asked me how much vendors were selling pap (a staple food for many black South Africans made from ground maize) for in the stadiums. Pap and steak or chicken is a common sight at South Africa domestic football matches cooked and sold by a plethora of vendors around the stadium. It is also one of my highlights of the football experience here. I replied that there wasn't any pap in the World Cup stadiums.

"But this is South Africa! They must have pap there! Why is there no pap?"

"Because only sponsors' products are allowed. There's just the American beer Budweiser, no South African beer, not even Castle. All the soft drinks are Coca-Cola products. Even the coffee. They serve bland hotdogs and burgers. No pap, not even boerewors."

"But this could be Brazil or Germany or anywhere!"

And he's spot on. The sterile corporatisation imposed by football's governing body to satisfy their sponsors is robbing the match day experience of its South African flavour. Informal food vendors are not allowed within a certain radius of the stadium, which restricts the tourists' opportunity to sample this food and the vendors' ability to sell as my host had found out to his detriment. Thankfully the vuvuzela is not to be banned otherwise the World Cup really could be anywhere.

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