Despite the predictions of soccer analysts, South Africans are convinced that their national team – also known as the Bafana Bafana – will shine in the World Cup. They play Mexico in the opening game on Friday.
Johannesburg, South Africa
“We are going to surprise the world!”
The statement, coming just days before the World Cup, could only be about football – or soccer as it is known in certain parts of the world.
The man speaking is wearing the yellow and green T-shirt of South Africa’s national team, nicknamed Bafana Bafana, so I can guess who the “we” is that he is speaking of. He’s sitting at a bar in northern Johannesburg with a big TV screen playing a “friendly” match between Switzerland and Italy that ends in a draw.
South Africa hasn’t been this optimistic and buoyant in years.
Since I arrived in South Africa, in 2006, the country seems to have gone from corruption scandal to high-profile trial in an endless tale of self-destruction.
In April, after the murder of a racist white politician that prompted threats of a “machete race war” and summoned up surprising levels of sympathy from white folks who shared few of the racist politicians ideas, South Africans seemed to think their country was on a fast path to Zimbabwe-hood.
One South African columnist, Aubrey Matshiqi, summed up the country’s mood perfectly by calling it “hysterical pessimism.”