I was driving home from work this evening when over the radio came an advert for Football Fridays, telling listeners to wear their Bafana or other African jerseys to celebrate the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in the country and support the national team. I was surprised when I heard this as it had taken until semi-final day for this to reach me. Now I haven't had my fingers in my ears or my eyes closed throughout this tournament so to only find out about this now is indicative of the weak interest in the Afcon. This was designed to get South Africans 'behind the boys' but the lack of evidence of this happening reveals the muted reaction that the tournament has received, at least here in Johannesburg.
Rewind to the 2010 World Cup and Football Fridays were a much different phenomenon. The initiative created by the Southern Sun hotel chain and subsequently endorsed by the tournament's organising committee, encouraged all South Africans to wear their Bafana jerseys to work on Fridays leading up to the World Cup. While designed to foster a nationwide support for Bafana, it actually reinforced divisions. The official Adidas shirts ranged from R300 to R1000 but those who couldn't afford it/ didn't want to spend that much turned to the vibrant black market in pirated, unofficial Bafana shirts. Football Fridays were a visible success with Bafana shirts seemingly everywhere on Fridays. In the aftermath of the tournament, Football Fridays became "Fly the Flag Fridays in which South Africans were encouraged to continue wearing their Bafana shirts although this quickly flopped.
Today, the attempted resurrection of Football Fridays has been the brainchild of Lead SA. The problem has been that there has not been the level of anticipation in the build up to the Afcon as there was for the World Cup, which had built up a critical mass of hype beforehand. It turns out that this time around, the initiative was dead in the water before it was launched.
Still, I shall belatedly enter into Football Friday and wear my Bafana shirt this Friday. Any excuse not to dress smart...