The FIFA Grinch mellows


The FIFA Grinch mellows

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It’s been a difficult week. I’ve resisted the temptation to stick a national flag on my car thus far because the flags are obviously made from pretty inferior material and start to fray within a short time. Who wants to drive around with a tattered pennant flapping like a used dish cloth from a plastic flag pole wedged between the door frame and back window of your car? And I’m damned if I want to put a coloured sock on the wing mirror of my car. Or rather, that’s how I felt last week but then the rest of the world arrived and the mood now is totally different.

I am quite happy to be the grinch that spoiled Christmas. I can’t bear the crass commercialism of it all and the fake jollity. And how can you enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner in thirty degrees of summer heat? I reluctantly put up a tree and decorate it but, to be honest, a perfect Christmas for me would contain none of the tinsel, cheap coloured lights from China and rich food. Give me a dozen langoustines and a good bottle of Sancerre for Christmas lunch and then let me sleep through the Queen’s speech.

I thought I could maintain my grinch stance with the FIFA World Cup (are we allowed to write that now it’s started?). I have always thought that we’d make a pretty good job of hosting it but I can’t think of anything worse than having to go to a football match at one of our new stadiums. I was invited by friends and surprised them by saying no thanks. There’s all the hassle of getting there and back and then there are the crowds and the pushing and shoving. No thank you. I really would prefer to watch it at home on TV I think. Except that now it’s all here and happening I rather wish I had accepted the invitation to a live game. I’m sure I’ll see more on TV but the atmosphere of a live game might just be worth the hassle of getting there four hours early on public transport.

The change that has come over South Africa in the past week is enough to bring a tear to the eye. I’ve met and talked to quite a few foreign visitors. I’ve told them where to find a bank or recommended a steak house and they are all genuinely thrilled to be here in SA. They speak only of the warmth and generosity of spirit of South Africans of all colours and how enthusiastically they have been welcomed. Which doesn’t come as anything of a surprise really because most of us know that we live in the best country in the world and that it’s only dishonest politicians and shifty journalists that harp on about racism being a major problem in the country. If it is a major problem then it’s not something the visitors to the World Cup have noticed.

So fired up with immense pride in our ability to host this event and feeling full of love for most of my fellow Johannesburgers I will be sticking a flag on the back window of my car and blowing my vuvuzela at traffic intersections. And if Bafana Bafana make it through to the quarter finals I’ll even wear one of those garish banana coloured shirts and learn to dance the diski.

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