After the Cup: Post 2010 Perceptions of South Africa

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Spain garnered the majority of press headlines from the FIFA World Cup tournament that took place last year. And for good reason — the Spaniards’ victory in the championship round was the country’s first ever World Cup win. Spain’s great finish also unfortunately marked a metaphorical dimmimg of the spotlight on the country that hosted their success, South Africa. Johannesburg, diamonds, apartheid, and Nelson Mandela being South Africa’s primary keywords, some might feel that the country’s decision to host this massive event did little to alter the world’s perception of the nation. The fact that this was the first WC ever to take place in S.A., in all of Africa for that matter, remains the most salient detail of South Africa’s 2010. This article looks to shine a light on what is new and what is of import in South Africa, nearly a twelvemonth after its inaugural World Cup hosting.

Let’s commence with that beautiful sounding instrument that melodicized its way into millions of international hearts, the vuvuzela (note sarcasm). Any adoration of this loud and obnoxious horn-like sounder seems to have remained in South Africa. Still, the fans of many countries took to the vuvuzela as a way of making it known that their team loyalty was, well, loud. Vuvuzelas stateside successfully made their way into the zeitgeist, landing appearances on nearly every nightly news broadcast and even a comic stint on Saturday Night Live. It might not be the most glamorous way for Johannesburg to slip into Americana, but it’s for sure an indelible one.

The people of South Africa took full advantage of exposure the World Cup inevitably brought on. Superstar siren Shakira composed one of YouTube’s biggest sensations in its history, with her effervescent tournament theme “Waka Waka.” The song’s styling and video made an attractive vehicle for traditional South African rhythms and dance to export themselves en masse to millions of viewers. But despite the increased attention to S.A.’s culture externally, it also seems that the country’s populace saw the World Cup as an occasion to turn inward as well.

Throughout the matches, the post-apartheid flag could be seen waving with more pride than ever before. All indications seemed to depict a South Africa that had successfully turned its back on the senseless bigotry brought on by apartheid decades prior. Word has it that before this tournament, only black South Africans participated in football with any real verve. Now, after the WC has concluded, citizens of all colors have taken to the patch and made the game their own. This societal shift and sense of freedom can be summarized in one elusive but always popular idea: democracy.

Long before the World Cup, Oprah brought South Africa into American popular media, as the country was the location for the uber-powerful figure’s first-ever school. Now it looks as if South Africa, after the games, is schooling the world on what toughness, and togetherness, really mean.

by Jeff Norman who also writes for and