It has been a summer, holiday season these past 2 weeks in South Africa, which has allowed Why Sport Matters to take in some warm weather sports. In Durban, we took in the beach culture along the Indian Ocean – the warm water a stark contrast to the chilly Atlantic over in Cape Town. This region is also known as the land of 1,000 hills with its rolling landscape and green countryside. The city skyline has been enhanced with the addition of the new stadium to be used to host the FIFA World Cup matches in June this year. The sleek design of the stadium also offers a unique elevator ride to the very top directly over the pitch (see photo), with sweeping views of the city, countryside and ocean. The hosting of next year’s FIFA World Cup will bring the spotlight of the world to this country, and the citizens are excited to show off its passion for great sport.
Back in Johannesburg, Why Sport Matters headed to cricket grounds in Pretoria to catch Day 4 of England’s first of four tests with South Africa. It was a brilliant summer day down here in the southern hemisphere, with the spectators making their own BBQ (braai to the locals) in the lawn while the players break for “tea” at midday to refuel for the afternoon! We took the occasion to speak with Jeremy Fredericks, a prominent cricket and rugby TV broadcaster, who gave Why Sport Matters more insight into this game and what it means to South African culture.
The countdown is on for next year’s FIFA World Cup — and the country of South Africa is feeling the attention. Why Sport Matters is dedicating a longer time than usual to explore this great country, and discover more about what sport means as well as the impact that the football World Cup is having here. We are down at the southern end of Africa for the entire month of December and spending time in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.
In order to understand South Africa, you must begin to appreciate the social and historical complexities of race relations and the impact of the apartheid era. The sport culture here is extremely rich and it is an interesting reflection and commentary of South African society. The big three sports are football, rugby and cricket. Having already hosted world cups in rugby (1995) and cricket (2003), the biggest tournament of all is coming here in 2010 as South Africa plays host to the FIFA football World Cup in June.
One of our favorite expressions from Kenya was “Karibu”, the Swahili word which means “You’re welcome.” It is not only the response to thank you, but it is also a greeting meaning – “ You are welcome here”. And that is how we felt about our experience in east Africa discovering sport culture in Kenya these past two weeks.
Our last blog left off from our somewhat harrowing experience in attending the semi-finals of the U-17 FIFA World Cup in Lagos, Nigeria. Both semi-finals were amazing games, and set the stage for a great match-up between an impressive Switzerland, and the host country Nigeria. The final match was held in Abuja, so the Why Sport Matters journey took the 1-hour flight to reach the capital city.
What, no traffic? Was this still Nigeria? Less chaos, green hills and open spaces made a totally different feel than overcrowded Lagos. The beautiful national stadium is a great setting to play a football match. Though the crowds outside were big, they were more organized than Lagos. With 60,000 enthusiastic Nigerians rooting on these teenagers, it was quite a feat for the Swiss to defend incredibly and pull off the upset, breaking the hearts of the thirsty crowd.
If there is a true example of Why Sport Matters in a country, you would have to look no farther than Nigeria. We were told (and read) many things about this country in the heart of West Africa prior to coming, but one must visit here to really experience it.
Nigeria is alive with excitement due to the U-17 FIFA World Cup going on right now. We had the fortune of attending yesterday’s semi-finals here in Lagos, and were part of one of the wildest sporting events we had ever witnessed. Our first “Teammate” for Why Sport Matters, Tunde Ajibode, gave us the good advice to get to the stadium early as he explained that Nigerians “don’t attend sport events like they do in your country.” The best piece of advice on this trip so far.