Now that we’re down to the last 16 things begin to get interesting because – at last – defensive play is no longer enough. Yesterday was especially interesting because Uruguay are beginning to look like serious inheritors of their heady tradition. It is often forgotten that Uruguay has a tradition in the World Cup surpassed by only Brazil and Italy. In the other match the professional money was all on the USA but Ghana triumphed nonetheless – and South Africa was thrilled, for the public has to an astonishing degree accepted the government’s injunction that this is Africa’s World Cup and that we must therefore all support the Black Stars, the sole remaining African team in the tournament.
This is, as far as I can ascertain, the first time that the ANC government’s avowed Pan-Africanism has ever struck any kind of chord. Continental solidarity is not an easy thing. Now England have gone out, will the English then support other European teams such as the Germans? Unlikely. In Latin America the only leader who seems to believe in continental unity is Hugo Chavez, which is to say someone that most other people do not wish to unite with. Often Latin Americans give the impression that language is still the key, so if their own team goes out they would side with Spain or Portugal; a problem in the forthcoming game between Brazil and Portugal, the Lusophone world championship, as it were. And I very much doubt whether South Koreans, with their team now out, have transferred their loyalties to Japan. Most Koreans, north or south, would support Mars against Japan.
Yet the ANC government here believes in much the same Pan-African verities that Nkrumah did 50 years ago, so we have already provided a lot of the money for the African Union, set up and paid for a risible Pan-African parliament in the veld near Jo’burg and also paid most of the bills for Nepad (New Economic Programme for African Development), an Mbeki-era project which also sits here in the bush, wasting tax-payers’ money and, like a sick old elephant past its useful life, waiting for somone to shoot it. No non-government South African, black or white, has ever shown the slightest interest in any of these institutions and they could all be put out of their misery to the general public satisfaction.
Despite that, the official view – strongly reflected by the SABC and the rest of the media – is that we must all support Africa. And thus on the main sports channel we can see Eddie Lewis and Gary Bailey (both ex-Man U), Gary Mabbutt (ex-Spurs) and John Barnes (ex-Liverpool) all opining away about how they would like nothing better than a Ghana victory. It’s difficult to know what they really think for this is the script they’ve been given and that’s how sports broadcasting works here. It is, for example, entirely forbidden for sports broadcasters to mention such vexed subjects as affirmative action team selection, so someone like Clive Rice is banned from the airwaves because he is known to have strong views on such matters. But this time the official version has triumphed and one sees both black and white South Africans loyally sporting Ghanaian flags and cheering for them. Last night all of this came off very nicely as Ghana moved into the last eight. What we’re all supposed to do if Ghana get knocked out I cannot, at this moment, guess.