It's high time for the world to realize it's the time for Africa!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Way back in 2006-07, when I saw Blood Diamond for the first time, plight of children who were conscripted into the rebel forces dragged me into continued catharsis for a long time. Just for the fact that such things (still?) exist in Africa. Today, when I saw a picture of kids in Africa playing “soccer with a ball made out of plastic bags on a dirt pitch in a small town in Branfort, outside Bloemfontein, South Africa, where the historical legacy of the Boer war is inescapable.”
Two contrasting pictures!
That picture of Dia, son of Solomon Vandy in Blood Diamond and the picture of those kids playing soccer gives a contrasting picture of Africa. Africa has come a long way from those days of slave trade, to the days of Boer war and reached a time where it can host the biggest single sporting event in the human history. The story of this transition has seen many wars and subsequent socio-economic crisis, violation of human rights, extreme poverty and many humanitarian crisis. Africa sees FIFA World Cup 2010 as an all-important event marking the end of ‘transition’ and the beginning of what it hopes will be a post racial era. The world cup is the final stamp of world approval that will help Africa put a lid on the past.

FIFA World cup 2010 will be remembered, for a long time to come, for various reason.

Firstly, for Africa. World Cup has given the continent a chance to present a more positive image to the world. Glare of international publicity helps Africa to draw attention on various issues like Rwanda, HIV-AIDS, Starvation, Darfur, Poverty, etc. The mega event has provided a stage for Africa to project it’s culture. It will help endorse the South African idea of “Rainbow Nation” which is supported by greats like Nelson Mandela. This African opportunity can be best described in the words of South Africa's President, Mr Thabo Mbeki, "We want to ensure that one day, historians will reflect upon the 2010 FIFA World Cup as a moment when Africa stood tall and resolutely turned the tide on centuries of poverty and conflict. We want to show that Africa's time has come.”

Secondly, for Geo-political and economic importance of Africa. As president Mbeki said, time has come for Africa. “If we have the World Cup [here],” said one African official, “we will not be the same again.” Africa is important to the world and especially to developed nations not just for trade in growing African market, but also for various issues of social, economic, humanitarian and also security issues. Entire world is in the verge of realization that, without peaceful and poverty free Africa, one cannot think of peaceful world and prosperous global society. This world cup can take this message far and wide.

Thirdly, for FIFA, this event will expand it’s territory. “FIFA’s conscious effort to go global began in 1994 World cup. First time the world cup exited its traditional Europe-Latin America orbit. The commercial success of 1994 despite the absence of prior fan-base, encouraged further expansion and 2002 saw the world cup entering Asia for the first time with South Korea and Japan as co-hosts. World cup 2010 effectively marks the conquest of the globe by brand FIFA and its efforts to market the most popular game known to humanity [EPW, June 12, 2010 issue].”

Finally, for the future of soccer in Africa. "You can't find anyone in Africa who says, 'I don't care about football.' This time, many African players might have been made to “watch others score the goals”, but future will not be same for African teams. Many African players like Samuel Eto’t(Cameroon, Inter Milan), Didier Drogba(Chelsea), Micheal Essien(Ghana, Chelsea), Frederic Kanoute(Mali, Sevilla) and others have shown their talent in European leagues. This world cup will take the soccer to African corners where it was unheard of and we aren’t too far from seeing world class players from Africa.

“The World Cup is the tournament by which most countries measure themselves. It is the most visible way nations are represented on the global stage [Alan Bairner].” With South Africa acting as ambassador for the whole continent in this FIFA world cup, Africa can project a dynamic image of the continent despite prevailing poverty. As I mentioned before, without peaceful and poverty free Africa, one cannot think of peaceful world and prosperous global society. It’s high time for the world to realize that it’s the time for Africa!

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.