By Conor Godfrey
World Cup fever is in full swing as the FIFA countdown clock hits 95 days, 22 hours, and 10 minutes. China’s olympic sized debutante ball in 2008 has made it all too easy for pundits to bill the upcoming World Cup as a continental coming out. I admit—I’ve fallen for the hype.
According to the optimists, the South African World Cup will create 129,000 jobs, make major strides in the battle against HIV/AIDS, increase the efficacy of South Africa’s security services, add 21 billion Rand to South Africa’s GDP, and cure cancer while halting global warming. (That last bit was all mine.)
And South Africans are dancing in celebration to K’naan’s “Wavin’ Flag,” the World Cup 2010 official song.
Naysayers claim that the so-called ‘African World Cup’ has priced Africans out of attending.
They are mostly right. Although the government reserved many $20 class-four tickets for South African residents, purchasing tickets elsewhere requires internet access and a credit card.
Those two qualifications alone would eliminate the majority of the continent. Furthermore, airfare and non-resident ticket prices would price out most fans from Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Algeria who want to follow their teams to South Africa.
But this misses the point.
Yes the World Cup venues will be swarming with white football fans, and yes many African football fanatics will be forced to watch the game from a Nairobi bar, or village video club, but that’s ok! This does not detract from the fact that Africa has moved up a weight class.
Africa’s influence beyond its shores is surging across all sectors.
The continent’s impact on international culture, security, health, and politics will continue to grow in the decades ahead as its minerals reshape geo-politics, its native sons and daughters accumulate on foreign shores, and its stark inequalities foster global menaces like pandemics, piracy, and extremism.
In 95days, 22 hours, and 10 minutes South Africa will strike a blow against the image of a continent hell bent on self-destruction and replace it with one of hard earned success.
This World Cup Americans account for a larger percentage of foreign-bought tickets than ever before.
American families want to combine a chance to see the World Cup with a once-in-a-lifetime African safari. This means that thousands of Americans will come home in July with an image of Africa that rarely graces the front on the New York Times.
95 Days, 22 hours, and 10 minutes