Saturday, 10 April 2010

The real story behind a big sporting weekend: Wembley, Augusta and Ventersdorp

HERE'S the problem I have. This weekend we have two massive FA Cup semi-finals with full houses at Wembley. We've also got a couple of relegation battles and Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday.
Yet the Daily Mail splashes on their back page with "England terror threat". Some group in Algeria have apparently threatened to attack the opening game against the USA in Rustenburg on June 11.
Great. Give the loonies plenty of publicity, have another go at the World Cup in darkest Africa, feed the insecurities of your readers, don't worry about ticket sales and tourism which would help an emerging nation in their hour of need.
And forget the real sport. Tiger Woods chasing English leaders Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood at the Masters in Augusta, two arrests at Essex Cricket Club over alleged match-fixing. Oh, and The Sun led with John Terry saying the Champions League failure will help England's World Cup crusade. Now that's not a bad tale for a Saturday morning, I said that on Wednesday night!
But no, pick out the rotten, the hysterical, the frightening. Terror threat? The loonies make gestures like that all the time. The real story in South Africa yesterday, the one which will really impact on the World Cup - in a positive way - is that there was NO trouble in Ventersdorp yesterday.
That's where white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche was buried, within site of his farmhouse yesterday. His loonies, the Afrikaner Weerstandsbewegeing (AWB or Afrikaner Resistance Movement), turned up in their thousands with their out-dated, Nazi symbols. Their usually whites only church was, for once, bulging (at this point you have to ask, does God do whites only churches?) but the local black population failed to tear the place apart. Good on them.
Hundreds of journalists from around the world turned up in the tiny North West dorp or village... but absolutely nothing happened. One Afrikaner muttered "housemaid" when a black female politician walked down the whites-only aisle. And that's it.
Now that is a tale. No trouble in South Africa. Unlike the Daily Star on Monday, which said there would be a "World Cup bloodbath" after Terreblanche's murder. I guess we'll see an apology for their front page splash on Monday. Not.
And how about the stunner in the South African papers today - suggesting a used condom had been found at the murder scene and that Terreblanche was having a relationship with one of the two farmhands, 15 and 21, who allegedly hacked him to death? Maybe it's not a race war after all, just a grubby end to a spiteful life.
Strange days. But peaceful. Serene despite the mad utterances of ANC youth leader Julius Malema, who threw a BBC journalist out of his press conference this week in a welter of racist abuse. Serene despite the action of an AWB madman called Visagie, who left a news room throwing his microphone away and threatening a tiny black, female newsreader while backed by his armed guard.
Hilarious videos of these incidents are available on YouTube. Only it isn't funny. Despite all these problems, all this provocation, South Africans remain largely sane, largely peaceful, largely looking forward to the World Cup on June 11.
And that's the point we need to make. Despite all those years of Apartheid, despite a democracy that is only 15 years old, they are holding it together. As I've said in my book A GAME APART, I think the Rainbow Nation gets closer to the pot of gold every time I visit.
I grew up there, I know how bad Apartheid was. Those who slam the crime rates and rantings of the juvenile ANC have short memories. Corruption, violence and discrimination were part of the old National Party's agenda from 1948 to 1994. Every white man had to serve two years of National Service to keep their brand of Nazism in place, to make Africans feel like migrant workers in their own land.
But it's over. This is the new South Africa, ready to host a World Cup for everyone, from Nicklas Bendtner to Didier Drogba. All colours welcome. And they can go through the front doors of the hotels, sit together in the stadiums, share a beach. Even a church.
So bring on the World Cup. Stop rabble rousing. Celebrate the Rainbow Nation. And pray for Nelson Mandela, too old and frail to raise a statement during this week's turmoil.

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