Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Uruguay, Youth Day and sub-zero temperatures

Tonight Bafana Bafana take on Uruguay in their second Group A clash. With all the teams in the group on one point and me being unable to resist football cliches, there will be all to play for. Coach Parreira has said that he will take risks in the team selection and tactics in order to progress into the second round but has not specified what. 

What is more significant is the day that this match is being played on. June 16th is Youth Day, one of the biggest public holidays in South Africa. It commemorates the Soweto Uprising on the same day in 1976 when over 20,000 students in the now-famous township protested against the use of Afrikaans (seen as the language of the oppressor) as the medium of instruction in schools. Clashes with police and the ensuing violence during the following few weeks saw approximately 700 hundred people killed. The image of a mortally wounded young boy named Hector Pietersen being carried in the arms of another man. became internationally recognisable as  the world woke up to the horrors of apartheid. The uprising is often heralded as the catalyst for change that set South Africa on the road to democracy. Star player Steven Pienaar has said that Bafana squad feel "the weight of responsibility resting on them". If Bafana, who are ranked 83rd in the world can beat 16th-ranked Uruguay, there will be massive celebrations nationwide, even with temperatures expected to hit -3C!

It can't be a coincidence that Bafana are playing today. As hosts, they were automatically team A1 in the draw. Perhaps it was set up like this by the organising committee in an attempt to foster national pride? Or maybe I'm just being cynical.

I had planned on heading down to the public viewing area in central Johannesburg this evening for the game but with such temperatures, I'm not sure that I'm willing to freeze for the sake of football and I doubt many South Africans who think that 15C is cold will think differently!

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