Tag Archives: South Africa

South Africa: Ignorance is never bliss

Just 13 days before Nelson Mandela died, I was in Cape Town and I visited the Robben Island museum. This was the island where Mandela was imprisoned from 1964 to 1982 – 18 years of the 27 he spent in captivity.

It’s an incredible place and it requires an investment in time to see it. You can’t just step in front and take a quick photo for mates then move on to the next tourist destination. You need to take a boat trip from Cape Town for about half an hour, then a bus ride across the island to the prison itself, then a guide takes you on a tour around the prison. Then after you see the prison you need to get back again…

Cape Town Nov 2013

It’s fairly relaxed and you get plenty of time to do your own thing and take photos, but when the guides are speaking just about everyone does pay attention because the guides at Robben Island are all former political prisoners. The guide I was with this time described his own experience of a bungled ANC bombing raid during the armed struggle and some big white cops who arrested him – he ended up in Robben Island after his first attempt at violence against the state.

During one part of the tour, the guide was telling us about the football pitch and other facilities in the prison. We were in a group of about 20 tourists standing near the main wall of the prison all intently listening to him give us his own memories of being a prisoner there.

But at the back of the group one girl was chatting to a mate on her phone. It was some inane chat about a night out they had recently shared. Suddenly the guide stopped talking and just looked at the floor. Then he looked up and towards the girl at the back of the group. Then back at the floor again. He said nothing.

Eventually everyone in the group had turned and was looking at her. She hung up quickly, but failed to seem embarrassed and didn’t apologise. She was a black African girl – not that it really matters, but it felt even worse that she was a neighbour of the South Africans and possibly even a South African herself – I never actually asked where she was from.

Cape Town Nov 2013

The guide carried on, prefacing the continuation of his talk with ‘no phones here please.’

We live in a connected society and social rules are constantly changing. Some argue that the young are redefining how we communicate and when and where it is acceptable to use technology such as phones, but age is no excuse. When a political prisoner is telling you about his own life in prison, history is so much more real than reading about it in a book.

I saw someone posted a selfie recently of their visit to Auschwitz – the photo being a grinning self-portrait inside one of the gas chambers. Is this where we are heading to or is this just the digital version of rude behaviour that has always existed – you tell me?
Cape Town Nov 2013

Boring, no?

Congratulations to Spain for their world cup victory in South Africa last night. It was well deserved. The Netherlands team had clearly been instructed to shut down any Spanish possession as quickly as possible, but their bulldozer approach to tackles meant it ended up feeling like a really dirty game.

That’s a shame in a world cup final, but I’ve read a lot of people calling the game boring. I wouldn’t agree. It’s true that finals are often boring as both teams play defensively, fearing any mistake could cost them the world cup, but the game last night featured over 30 shots on goal and 14 yellow cards, plus a red card. There was plenty of drama, even without goals.

Were the critics actually watching the same game?

Ten German Bombers

It’s funny to see stories like this in the Observer today, claiming that England football fans are realising that the Germans are similar to them… There will be no fan segregation at the England v Germany game in South Africa today and the fans are enjoying the warm up together.

Why is it we are surprised that there are shared cultural references between England and Germany? The Saxons settled in England long before the Nazi party of the 20th century came to prominence. And this is possibly the main issue. Nazi Germany is one of the most commonly taught historic eras in English schools. It’s about war. It’s got some villains. The teachers have a lot of materials to draw on. But it also means that children get turfed out of school with an impression of Germany still shaped by their history classes.

So the jokes about German bombers continue – until some of the fans actually meet Germans and realise that their own English culture,religion, moral values, and love of beer is Anglo-Saxon.

The Germany world cup four years ago gave a reason for a lot of English people to visit Germany – a lot of people who might think nothing of visiting Spain, but would never have considered Germany as a nice enough place to visit. And I’m sure there were a lot of surprised people who enjoyed the hospitality of the locals.

I don’t know how the German tourist office can improve their image – I have seen ads featuring Michael Ballack – but I think if they really want to change this lingering nod to history by the English then they need to lobby for a change to the GCSE curriculum.
Deutscher Bundestag - German Parliament

Ghana goes all the way against the USA!

Ghana has a population of 24m. The USA has 310m.

Life expectancy in Ghana is 60 years. In the USA it is 78 years.

Literacy in Ghana is around 57%. In the USA it is 99%.

The entire GDP of Ghana is estimated at around $36 billion. The USA GDP is estimated at $14.2 trillion.

But Ghana can still beat the USA 2-1 in a world cup football match!!

Are we going to see an African team going all the way?
Boot on the other foot

The danger of the vuvuzela…

Have a look at eBay right now and run a search on ‘vuvuzela’…

When I last looked, there were around 130 of them for sale in the UK. And some for stupid prices considering it’s just a plastic trumpet that costs pennies to mould in China. There is money to be made selling these things in pubs over the next few weeks!

Almost everyone here in the UK is complaining about these buzzing horns and even asking for them to be banned from the world cup, though as the FIFA President Sepp Blatter has given them a strong vote of support as a part of the South African football experience, there is not going to be any ban. You had better get used to the buzzing.

But, what I find really funny is that the English fans are complaining about these horns, yet I would bet money that come the start of the premier league season in about two months, the English will all be blowing on them – in their club colours… Who wants to take a bet on it?
Football crazy!

Why ban the vuvuzela?

Why is everyone on the TV and radio talking about banning the vuvuzela, the plastic trumpet played by so many South Africans at the world cup football games that the crowd takes on the noise of a swarm of bees?

Callers to BBC radio 5 live today explained how they ‘don’t like the noise’ or ask ‘why don’t the fans sing songs like we do’?

Isn’t one of the aims of the FIFA World Cup to bring together fans from all nations and cultures and to remind them all that despite their differences, they all have a shared love of the same game? English fans sing songs about the team usually based on familiar tunes, but they have the huge advantage of a single language.

South African fans are in a country where 11 languages enjoy equal status and English is only the 5th most commonly used language. How can they create puns that would be enjoyed by the entire stadium?

And moving beyond the practicalities of language, has anyone considered just how colonial this debate sounds? If South African fans love to blow these trumpets at football matches, then why not join in, rather than preaching to them how fans are supposed to behave?

I hope FIFA doesn’t ban instruments before the Brazil world cup 2014. Everyone knows how much the Brazilians love to play music at matches, so a ban just because of disgruntled Europeans upset at Africans blowing trumpets would be a disaster.