At long last, soccer fans, the moment is here. Today, when South Africa takes the field against Mexico, the World Cup will officially be underway. Nothing attracts the global gaze quite like it. Nothing creates such an undeniably electric atmosphere with enough energy to put British Petroleum, Exxon/Mobil and Chevron out of business for good. And finally, after eighty years, the World Cup has come to Africa. We should take a moment to celebrate that this most global of sports has finally made its way to the African continent, nesting in the bucolic country of South Africa.
And yet as we celebrate the cup’s long awaited arrival in the cradle of civilization, there are realities on the ground that would be insane to ignore. To paraphrase an old
As the Anti-Privatization Forum of South Africa has written,
Our government has managed, in a fairly short period of time, to deliver "world class" facilities and infrastructure that the majority of South Africans will never benefit from or be able to enjoy. The APF feels that those who have been so denied, need to show all South Africans as well as the rest of the world who will be tuning into the World Cup, that all is not well in this country, that a month long sporting event cannot and will not be the panacea for our problems. This World Cup is not for the poor—it is the soccer elites of FIFA, the elites of domestic and international corporate capital and the political elites who are making billions and who will be benefiting at the expense of the poor.
In South Africa, the ANC government has a word for those who would dare raise these concerns. They call it “Afropessimism.” If you dissent from being an uncritical World Cup booster, you are only feeding the idea that Africa is not up to the task of hosting such an event. Danny Jordaan the portentously titled Chief Executive Officer of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, lamented to Reuters, "For the first time in history, Africa really will be the centre of the world’s attention—for all the right reasons—and we are looking forward to showing our continent in its most positive light.”
To ensure that the “positive light” is the only light on the proceedings, the government has suspended the right to protest for a series of planned demonstrations.