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SWC - a visitor's view

2010-06-09 15:21
It is well-known that South Africa will become the centre of the world for the next month. So it is especially good fortune that I will be spending the next two months in Cape Town as a News24 intern, telling multimedia stories as soccer madness consumes the country. Beyond the World Cup, I feel privileged to visit this young democracy, which is finding its identity as my native country wonders about its own.

I am a graduate student of journalism at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, originally hailing from Chicago, Illinois. As an American, I join most of my compatriots in being largely ignorant about soccer on the international level. By the way, none of us think that our Major League Soccer (MLS) rivals any of the European leagues. However, we do know well enough that our Landon Donovan is a world-class striker.

Travelling around the city, I have heard two distinct local perspectives on the arrival of the SWC. The first seems to come from the less affluent, working class, which is: “This is the first time I’ve truly felt like a South African.”

The enthusiasm is boundless, the joy visible on people’s faces. There is an overwhelming pride in sharing this country with the rest of the world. The second perspective is grimmer, and tends to come from the middle and upper class. “Let’s just get this over with,” they say.

I might speculate that those living comfortably in Cape Town today have less to gain from the SWC than those who are scraping by. An influx of hundreds of thousands of visitors for the Cup means a massive boost in revenue for shopkeepers, waiters, and vendors. The building of stadiums, roads, and sidewalks has meant new jobs for hundreds of thousands of South Africans. For some salaried workers at banks, insurance companies, and advertising firms, the crowds are mostly an annoyance.

At the same time, poorer Capetonians are less likely to afford a ticket to a match. In other words, they have poured their hearts and their sweat into readying the country for the Cup, but may not ever see the main event. As one ticketless café worker said, “I just want to feel the vibe.”

 However, assuming the public transportation system does its job, the security network prevents any major disasters, and in the end that all of the doubts about infrastructure and the political tribulations get out of the way of the soccer, all South Africans will get to say: “We did it.”

To a 27-year-old American who has only once seen his country truly united - under the devastating weight of 9/11 - that is an admirable thing.  

-  Follow Kevin on Twitter.

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