Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Beautiful Game

I went to a football game this afternoon: Manchester United vs Kaizer Chiefs.
The hallowed turf of Newlands Rugby Stadium was transformed into a football pitch.
And the game was fantastic.... for many reasons.

So often our sporting spectatorship is divided along racial lines – white and coloured guys watch rugby and black guys watch soccer. But not today: The spectators came from every section of our country’s population. They wore the red of Man United or the yellow of Amakhosi....joined together by their love for this beautiful game.

The South African national anthem was enthusiastically sung by every person in the stadium. I often go to rugby matches where the Xhosa and Sotho section of the anthem is ignored and then the spectators sing the Afrikaans and English bits. But today the stadium knew all the words and sang every word with joy and passion.

The Chiefs supporters blew their Vuvuzelas (plastic trumpets) when the Man United team ran onto the field. We were all excited to see these international superstars “live”, instead of on a television screen. The Man United supporters (many, many thousands of them live in Cape Town) cheered themselves hoarse when the Chiefs played good football because we were all proud together of our local players.

For just a moment I was able to forget the divisions of my country’s history and feel like I belonged to a South African crowd. It was great. The score? A win for both football and South Africa.

PS: Chiefs held Man United to a one-all draw.

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