Think about the safety measures and technical ability that go into hosting the millions of visitors from all over the globe, including tons of heads of state and celebrities. In my opinion, one of the most successful aspects of this World Cup is that the media and fans were able to stay totally focused on the matches; that the talk surrounding the event was not about the ability of South Africa to host this successfully and safely.
There is a real sense of solidarity between African countries when it comes to issues on a global scale (I saw it when Obama was elected and it seemed like every country here claimed his ancestry.) The solidarity even bleeds over into the games themselves.
Unfortunately, African teams didn't make it to the last few matches. But as individual countries were eliminated, I saw fans rallying behind their neighboring countries. This culminated in the quarter-finals when Ghana was the only African team left. I knew this is was a game not to be missed here. And sure enough, although the final score was disappointing (unless you are a Uruguay fan) the match was SO FREAKIN exciting.
I write this as typical American, who knows nothing about "soccer" except that my brother played it in high school. And as an American who believes all rivalries (sports or otherwise) will always be secondary to that between the Yankees and Red Sox. But rooting for Ghana in this match may just be enough to turn one into a 'football' fan after all. Every time Ghana ran with the ball, every goal shot they took or blocked, you could feel the nearly 15% of the entire human population which lives on this continent running and shooting and blocking with them.
I wouldn't be surprised if scientists actually observed some continental plate shifting during that game. Of course, just to heighten suspense, the game tied in regular time and no one scored in overtime, which means it came down to a series of stress-inducing penalty kicks. I swear I think every little kid in Africa was standing completely still for those few minutes, hands covering their eyes, or mouths or grabbing little friends hands. It was sad to see it end. Final score 4-2.
Although Ghana's players and many fans probably cried enough that night to fix all of the continents water shortages, I think we all still have plenty to be proud of. The games have continued on and the final is tonight. South Africa has done its continent proud, hosting a world-class month-full of games and bringing Africa onto the stage as a serious player in the game of media, communications and tourism business that surround these sorts of events.
Lucky for us in Tanzania, we have a relatively huge population of Dutch here and so we will be supporting them tonight and wearing all the orange we can and blowing our vuvuzelas. And on a final thought, these vuvuzelas are the one thing I will NOT miss about the World Cup. If you don't know what a vuvuzela is look here or just know that it is a really annoying noise-maker that comes to life during the World Cup and sounds at best like a dying cow, and if it’s being blown by people not good at it, more like a cow that wants to die. And the overabundance of them in the country right now means they have found their way into brass bands and wedding celebrations and all sorts of other events. I do hope they die away after tonight's game.
South Africa is certainly more developed than many countries in Africa, Tanzania included. But all Africans can be proud of this success and they certainly are!
It may be just a sport to some people, but a lot more was at stake in this World Cup- African Pride. And that is very much intact.