In my world it is Rugby-day today.
Maybe it is the same in your world?
Maybe your world is not too concerned about it?
On Facebook people have changed their profile pictures to a ‘Springbok’-image. And those who tweet, tweet excitement about the match.
Last night, at a dinner party, even friends who aren’t really into sport admited they would be spending this day, watching the ‘Bokke’ play. They’re playing against Wales. News reports call it a ‘battle for the ages’. South Africa is ranked 3rd in the iRB-world-ranking. Wales is ranked sixth.
The excitement is conatgious.
Although, I’ve not been infected.
According to the Official iRB-website, the ‘notion of a Rugby World Cup had first been contemplated in 1979, but it was not until late-1983 that the Australian Rugby Union and New Zealand Rugby Football Union submitted written proposals to the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB). Neither was aware of the other’s proposal with Australia wanting to stage a tournament to coincide with their Bicentenary in 1988 and New Zealand proposing the previous year. Both proposals were turned down but Australia and New Zealand pooled their resources to conduct a feasibility study, which would then be presented at the IRFB’s annual meeting in March 1985. Australia and New Zealand settled on 1987 as the year, whereby avoiding any clash with the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup, and a vote was held on the proposal at the IRFB meeting in the French capital Paris.’
Interestingley enough, ‘Ireland and Scotland were against the proposal as it appeared to threaten the amateur status of the sport, while France were in favour only if countries from outside the IRFB were invited to take part.’
‘South Africa would not be allowed to take part in any tournament, (we) they were the subjects of an international sports boycott because of the apartheid regime, but nonetheless (we) voted in favour (of the tournament).’
Today ‘the Rugby World Cup is established as the third biggest sporting event behind the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup.’
And big sporting events make big money.
Not just from ticket sales, but from merchandise, broadcasting rights & product. From flights, travel & accommodation.
An International event like this could be good for a hosting country’s economy.
In 1995, a single year after our country’s first free & democratic elections, the Rugby World Cup was hosted here.
Almost like a reward?
‘It was the first tournament to be held in one country. It was one few people will ever forget. South Africa, as hosts, adopted the slogan ‘one team, one nation’ as they sought to reunite a nation bearing the scars of 40 years of apartheid through a sport that had been seen as a white man’s game. The Springbok jersey was a symbol of this, but the appearance of a frail 76-year-old black man, himself a political prisoner for 26 years on Robben Island, wearing the famous green and gold jersey bearing the number of the white captain changed that. That man was, of course, President Nelson Mandela who, also sporting a Springbok baseball cap, presented the Webb Ellis Cup to South Africa captain Francois Pienaar to the delight of the capacity crowd at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. The game on 24 June was trivial to such an occasion, but for the record South Africa had beaten New Zealand 15-12 after extra-time courtesy of Joel Stransky’s late drop goal, the score having been 9-9 at the end of normal time.’
What I am wondering, more than 15 years later: can sport truly change a nation’s fiber?
I ask this with the 2010 FIFA (Soccer) World Cup (also hosted by South Africa) still fresh in our memory.
Everyone was certainly emotional on that day when Nelson Mandela stepped onto the public stage donning his Springbok Jersey & Cap. It was memorable. To such an extent that years later, in 2009, it inspired the film Invictus, celebrating Nelson Mandela for his political prowess, enlisting the national rugby team in a unique venture to unite our apartheid-torn land.
As my children stumble into our bedroom with sleepy-eyes & my Blackberry buzz incessantly with tweets about the game, I wonder if this country we love so dearly have changed at all?
I wonder if the 17 years since 1994 is enough to have healed the pain & anguish of decades of destruction?
I wonder if the example of Madiba & the statesmanship of Mbeki was enough to inspire forgiveness & a new beginning for our people.
This week a famous South African radio-DJ resigned from his job as ‘the’ radio breakfast show host in South Africa & stepped away from the opportunity to host TV-shows about the Rugby World Cup.
I’m not too concerned about Rugby or Soccer or Olympics.
I’m not too concerned about fat capitalists enriching themselves through the excitement of sport-lovers.
Or about fame-hungry celebrities.
I am concerned about South Africa.
A country forever affected by colonialism.
A people degraded through reapers.
I wonder what I can do to heal our land?
I wonder if it is at all possible?
For clearly the healing of sport was superficial as Darren Scott displayed.
I pray that we may find forgiveness.
I pray that we may rise above politics & power, becoming a people who create a new world, as we accept the past & choose to learn from it.
I pray it earnestly, as others cheer the Springboks battling it out with Wales in an epic battle of the ages.
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