Mayhem in Khayelitsha

R.W. Johnson · What the Neighbour's Gardener Saw

My neighbour's gardener, a Malawian called Charles Banda, lives in a shack in Khayelitsha, Cape Town's biggest squatter camp. 'It was really dreadful after South Africa lost to Uruguay,' he said to me yesterday. 'Most of my neighbours were watching the game on TV, either at a shebeen or at a friend's. They were drinking as they watched, of course, and by the end they were very angry and disappointed. They've always said they would avenge themselves on foreigners once the World Cup was over but now they didn't feel like waiting for that. So groups of them started going house to house looking for foreigners. They caught two of my friends and shot them. I ran away and slept at a friend's last night.'

No news of this has yet appeared in the local press but I believe Charles. Almost any amount of mayhem can happen in Khayelitsha without the outside world being much the wiser. The real question is simply whether this sort of xenophobic violence will start in earnest now or later. The next week will tell. At present South Africans can still hope for a miracle in which their team beats France by, say, 4-0, allowing them to progress to the next stage of the Cup. When that fails to happen, I fear for Charles and his friends.

I also feel sorry for my English friends. Their team's performance thus far has been wholly pathetic. At present Slovenia and the USA both look much better teams and it's not even clear that Algeria isn't better than England too. Even the presence of 30,000 English supporters at the match in Cape Town's Green Point stadium last night didn't tilt the balance although it was nice to note that for once the sound of singing (God Save the Queen, mostly) actually competed with the wretched vuvuzelas. There weren't enough Algerians present for their singing to be heard but they had no need of such sustenance to hold England and even enjoy most of the ball possession.

While it is true that Robert Green on his own has cost England two points, it is extremely hard to look at England and say they deserve to make the last 16. The revelation that the FA lost the Jaulani balls sent to them before the tournament, preventing the team from practising with these difficult objects, could yet attract much of the blame for this wretched situation. This is one of the things which a more vigilant press would have brought out much sooner. Similarly, it is only now that South Africa's football cognoscenti are pointing out that their FA fouled up in their preparations by arranging for South Africa only morale-building games against minnows like Lesotho and Thailand, rather than against teams of the standard they face now.

Thus far no Latin American team has lost a game and they are also scoring most of the goals. But, less noticed, this World Cup has also been good for the Slavs so far. Not only did Serbia actually beat Germany but both Slovenia and Slovakia are looking competitive, though the total population of all three countries is far less than, say, England. The Swiss are looking good too. Maybe we should have paid more attention to tennis. Switzerland has produced both Federer and Hingis, and there are legions of good Slavic players in both the men's and women's game. If there is any correlation between prowess on the tennis court and at football that would also explain why England look so hopeless.


  • 19 June 2010 at 2:16pm
    Chris Larkin says:
    The story of violence like that is troubling. Unfortunately I don't think South Africa is alone in having to deal with the fallout from angry supporters. It is something that football struggles to rid itself of and is all too often used as a convenient excuse for people to hide behind when the worst side of their character is revealed.

    England have been poor so far because they have played badly. Simple as that. There is no reason to blame the balls, the vuvuzelas or anything else for that matter. In the end - regardless of £6m manager, population or resources it comes down to players and how they perform on the day. So far not that great! As usual however if they beat Slovenia on Wednesday the press and the general public will shift their stance and once again believe we are world beaters. This is the World Cup, it is the same every time and that is part of it's attraction.

    On a separate note Slovakia looking competitive? A 1-1 draw with New Zealand doesn't quite justify that. Also, Switzerland looked terrible in the game against Spain and were totally outplayed. Luckily though, football has scant regard for reputation and results count for everything. Something that we will see on Wednesday. For better or worse.

  • 19 June 2010 at 4:11pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    I wonder how many of these incidents will make the international press? The security guards who wanted their pay reached the media but only as a side note. Chris Larkin is right in his comment that supporters get violent - Football brings out the worst (the best? Don't know about that) in people. The film of Germnany's progress through the 06 camapign only showed thousands of smiling, waving fans, a great many women among them in a way that suggested that it was all just too friendly to be true. As the German team bus returned to the hotel, hundreds of police lining the route did the wave as the bus passed. Did they know they were being filmed? Possibly Can't imagine that happening in South Africa though.
    My take on England. I heard today that Capello put in dozens of extra training sessions TO TEACH THEM HOW TO PASS! Can that be true? You can't blame it on the balls - the other sides have played without much difficulty. It's just not the same game in the Premier League and the English players can't make the transition.

  • 19 June 2010 at 11:04pm
    loxhore says:
    Is 'Jaulani' a tipo?