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Archive for the ‘soccer – diski – footie – the beautiful game’ Category

I’m not sure how I came across this book while trawling about on the net, but I did and it was well worth the money I spent buying it.

Photo: Jessica Hilltout

I love photography. And in particular, I love photography about Africa. People, animals, geographic locations, culture, food…Africa has it all. So it was with great excitement that I began flipping through the online version of the photo book called AMEN: Grassroots Football. The photographer and author is Jessica Hilltout who grew up in Belgium and studied photography at Blackpool College of Art. She seems like a bit of a wanderer, in search of out-of-the-way and unexpected locations and people. The kind of photographer who seeks out the beauty in what many would consider the most toughest of places. Madagascar, Central Asia and Africa are some of the locations she’s travelled and photographed.

AMEN is a book which instantly spoke to me, not only because of the hype around the Soccer World Cup, but also because no matter where you go in Africa – you will find soccer. This book perfectly depicts the fact that in Africa – a plan will be made. Don’t have a commercially made soccer ball? No problem – lets make it out of ilala palm fronds and tie it up into a ball shape with string made from the sisal plant. No natural materials? No worries – we can wrap strips of an old, worn and threadbare t-shirt around a squashed cold drink can. No real goal posts? Just place those two rock hard, sun dried cow turds the right distance apart. Little boys will always make a plan when it comes to soccer. I never really understood why it was called the beautiful game. And I still don’t feel that it can own that description when it comes to professional soccer – just ask Andre Escobar, the Colombian who scored an own-goal in the 1994 World Cup. But when I see these little guys running around in their frayed shorts with feet like leather, in the dying light of the day – there is beauty.

Jessica, if you ever read this I hope you don’t mind me posting two of my favourite photographs from your book.


Photo: Jessica Hilltout

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I clearly remember where I was the day South Africa found out that we would be hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup. I was standing outside the Spar at Gateway watching the huge TV they’d put up for the announcement. I was surrounded by strangers and we all waited with baited breath for Blatter to pull out the card which held our fate. And in the space of 5 minutes a sport which has previously held virtually no interest for me suddenly became meaningful.

 On my way home I decided to drive through the CBD of Durban to see what I would find; flags were flying out of high rise buildings and the sound of vuvuzelas carried through the air. Cars were hooting and guys were dancing on the street corners. Of course by the time I got back to the suburbs this was all a distant memory. But as the years have flown by and the city has readied itself for the event we’ve all felt the overwhelming weight of South Africa hosting the World Cup. We’ve endured the negative press from overseas, the worrying (and terrifying) incidents of xenophobia, the fear that ET’s death earlier this year and the crazy rantings of Malema would eclipse the unbelievable work which has taken place. Now we’ve got beautiful new stadiums, Durban’s amazing new airport and stunningly regenerated beach-front, the Gautrain (12 minutes from OR Tambo Airport to Sandton City), upgraded roads and much needed infrastructure, which I think we would have waited years for if the World Cup hadn’t come our way. A sense of pride and awe is what I feel when I stand in our Moses Mabhida stadium.

Photos by my mom!

As I’ve mentioned, soccer is not a game I would voluntarily watch under normal circumstances. Seems like a lot of running up and down, dramatic dives and not enough goal scoring. But now! Now I am a fan (until the 11th July and then sense will prevail). So last night we all sat up at the lodge at Zulu Nyala in Hluhluwe, with our hearts in our throats as Ghana took on Uruguay. When Bafana x2 got knocked out of the Cup South Africans’ had to choose another African team, and Ghana got our vote (after Cote D’ivoire, Cameroon and Nigeria got knocked out). Black Stars all the way baby! So it was with great sadness that we watched Ghana bugger up that penalty after Suarez’s hand-ball, and lose in the penalty shoot out. I so badly wanted them to win. I felt like I was watching our own boys and I think I might just have felt as bad as I did when Bafana got knocked out, which is a bit odd since I didn’t even know the name of one Ghanaian on the team before last Friday. But it was Africa’s chance this time. And African is what I am. I don’t really care too strongly about who wins the world cup now but I think I’ll go for Argentina. My only motivating factor is that a famous Durban sangoma (diviner or traditional healer) predicted that Argentina would win. I’d get a total kick out of her being right!

Since I wrote this, Argy have obviously lost and there’s one old sangoma who has a lot of explaining to do.

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Right now Mzansi is humming – partly (mostly?) due to the vuvuzelas which have blown non-stop, or so it seems, since June 10th 2010. I cannot ignore the most exciting event to hit South African shores since the 1995 rugby world cup. The streets are alive with sounds of foreign tongues, vuvuzelas and soccer commentary. If you work anywhere near Florida Rd you may as well give up on game day and head to Booty’s Bar, Spiga or some other local and order a beer.

At every street corner, at every set of robots (traffic lights), flag sellers ply their trade. All the flags of the 32 nations competing at this world cup are available – as flags, as socks for your side mirrors, as quirky alice bands and so much more! I’ve bought flags for my car and socks for my side mirror (one got nicked – yes, just the one). I had a chat with a Zimbabwean who’s bringing in R3000 on a good day and half of that on a bad day – he’s made enough money to go back to Zim, buy a kombi (van) and start his new taxi businesses. I’ve contributed to this local trade by buying 5 huge flags: South Africa, New Zealand (a total accident!), England, Nigeria and the Cameroon (should have bought a Ghanaian flag instead). I am one of those people and extremely proud to be one. I’ve watched nearly every game – not bad for someone who only recently learnt the off-side rule because it was compared to a shopping analogy. The point is: you cannot ignore it. You cannot help but get caught up in the excitement and the excess paraphernalia (if you’re wondering what you’re going to do with it all once it’s over – you can donate it all to the Umcebo Trust down at uShaka).

Durban has proved to be a perfect host city. The sun shines for most of winter, the temperature rarely drops below 25 degrees during the day, and we have the beach. The glorious beach, with its brand new, spacious promenade – you can now walk from uShaka Marine World all the way up to Blue Lagoon (or Lugs as it is affectionately called). Our stadium, surely the most beautiful in the land (or world if I’m being honest), has risen like a phoenix from the dust bowl that was once another soccer stadium….but lets not dwell on that or the rugby stadium across the road. This stadium has brought a touch of class to Durban (or as it’s affectionately known dirt bin)

I applied for tickets to all the Durban games and came out with three tickets to watch Nigera play Korea. Not quite Portugal vs Brasil – but in hindsight it worked out for the best because that had to be the most boring game played so far. We were greeted by a line of South African police who did a great job at welcoming us in – I’m hoping this friendly attitude remains long after the games have finished and the tourists have gone home. We sat in the rafters which gave us the best view of the stadium and listened to the Koreans as they beat their drums, they did a fantastic job at competing with the vuvuzelas, which seem to have lessened over time (ruptured throats and vuvu lips could have something to do with that). Local entrepreneurs are doing a roaring trade selling shu-shu-zelas – ear plugs – to fans.

Tonight I become a Black Star and will be backing Ghana all the way. I’ll be sitting at the Africa Bar with my American friends, my sister and her English fiancé, and hopefully a real Ghanaian or two.

Jabs and his vuvu – the lady behind definitely not loving it! Al, Cath and Romy supporting the boys. Photos by Romy!

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