Archive for the ‘world cup stories’ Tag

Soccer Final – Flying High in Franschhoek   2 comments

Soccer Final -Flying High in Franschhoek

Barbara Nussbaum.

In his article of June 15th, John Battersby, former editor of the Sunday Independent newspaper in South Africa, predicted in the Christian Science Monitor  that  “ … the most enduring benefactor of the World Cup will be the national psyche and the quest for a common national identity to transcend a deeply divided past.”  I think he is absolutely right!

I could easily feel the healing balm the “gees” in Cape Town, but wondered how Franschhoek, where everything is both more known and more hidden, fared in healing its own divides. Brett Garner, editor of one of our local newspapers, The Month (  described Franschhoek’s social heritage as a place – where people from different groups just never mixed. Settled originally by the French Huguenots, and up till 20 years ago, largely Afrikaans, Franschhoek is now quite cosmopolitan – having attracted permanent residents from England, the Netherlands and Germany, as well as a variety of young parents with children, moving to the countryside from urban areas like Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. The gastronomic and wine capital of South Africa, home to 50 wineries and plenty bling, Franschhoek is also home to a growing community of African foreigners – from Zimbabwe, Malawi and the Congo – who work in restaurants, or as security guards.  Country homes and wine estates sell for tens of millions of rands here. In certain ways Franschhoek exemplifies a microcosm of South Africa where some of the greatest gaps between the wealthy and the less fortunate are clearly in evidence.  And where despite good will by individuals and companies towards the less fortunate, it is quite a divided community.  How did the world cup touch the psyches of people in this gorgeous village, hidden in the valleys of the winelands?

On the night of the world cup soccer final, I spoke to a few people at the local pub in Franschhoek, the Elephant and Barrel . I asked people what had moved them most, or what struck them most about the Soccer World Cup. I first spoke to Kennedy Ngubalunga, one of the waiters. “ This was more than the game – it was about the worth of the people. I loved the vuvuzela, that it is our own. It is a unique South African item.” I was then greeted by Samuel – a beautiful blonde 4 year old, wiggling his tiny hips to the music and masterfully blowing a vuvuzela -a skill taught to him by his teachers at a Montessori nursery school in Cape Town.

Morgan a beautiful  twenty something young woman, discovered the power of being a South African through the loving eyes of  foreign fans and visitors.  “Cape Tonians are quite closed people. They stick to themselves and their friends. The world cup opened us up. I went to places I would never usually go to like the fanparks.  The overseas visitors were just so receptive to us; they were so excited that I was a South African. I loved the unity I felt.” 

A shy Coloured woman who works at a local primary school said “this world cup brought all colours together.” For her, the highlight was “blacks, whites, pink and yellow and green people came together like a rainbow. We all stood together in front of a screen at a shebeen in  Mantyotyombeni, an informal settlement near Franschhoek, watching the soccer. (Mantyotyombeni is a Xhosa word for many shacks).  Rich people and poor people, whites and blacks and coloureds all watched the game. Owners of wine estates, guest houses, businessmen – they all went to the shebeen. That never happens here”.

A guesthouse owner at my table confirmed the story – “Yes she said, my husband was there. They went up in a combi and had a great time. Watching soccer with others in Mantyotyobeni was new. They found it exciting watching the game together.  He and his friends discovered that people living in informal settlements are like anyone else – love drinking together and enjoying the game. I think they will keep it up.”

Reading the news this morning, Dennis Davis, a well known judge and public figure in South Africa, quoted in the Guardian UK , asks the question on everybody’s mind :  “ What comes out of this, is how do we– without an event, without an imposition of a deadline – capture the joy and spirit and community? How do we actually translate that into something beyond a month? Why should it not be possible to do it on a more permanent basis?”

I found an inspiring answer to this question in conversation with the very last person I spoke to after the game, Prakash, an advertising executive with  Draftfcb[1],  is originally from the UK, but relocated to Franschhoek where he fell in love with the place and the woman who was to become his wife. With heartfelt enthusiasm he said, “South Africans really need to give themselves credit for what they have done. This is amazing country. The South African heart, the African spirit is incredibly powerful. We all need to recognise that.”

He told me about an inspirational campaign, the brainchild of Draftfcb, (one of the world’s biggest communications agencies, with over 80 year history in South Africa) initiated simply as a social responsibility project.  The language on the Keep the Flag flying website is passionate, moving, inspirational.“Keep Flying is a simple idea. An idea that matters. And an idea that belongs to all of us. It believes that it’s all of our responsibility to fly the flag. Every South African Brand; every South African and to recognise what the flat symbolizes to Us and our unity. A Unity that brought the World’s greatest tournament to life in a way only we could. A unity that still reverberates across continents a world away. A unity that says to the world and ourselves. “ Hear us, each one of us, as one. Our time has truly come.”  (For more information about this initiative check out

At 1 a.m.I walked out of the Elephant and Barrel, elated and inspired. Through the small lens of one joyous night talking to people in a lively Franschhoek pub, I learned that John Battersby had correctly predicted that the healing of South African psyche may well be the biggest beneficiary of the world cup.  Arriving at my car  I noticed that my own South African flag, previously placed on my car window had been taken by someone obviously caught up in the spirit of excitement. I didn’t even mind.  I hope he/she keeps flying the flag. I for one will be buying another one immediately!

Barbara Nussbaum is a published author, currently living in Franschhoek. She is a published author, often flying the flag for South Africa and Africa. Her latest book,  published by Penguin Books, Personal Growth African Style, co-authored with Palsule and Mkhize, will be in bookstores on August 1. She is, for now, turning her hand to blogging. Check out her site for details of the book and some of her blogs.



Why listen to the soccer commentary when you can “feel it”?   2 comments

Like millions of South Africans I am doing what I can to drink the milk and taste the honey of joy that is flowing through our land. We’re living in a different time, a transformative time. There is something beautiful about the magic of world soccer and the pride of being a successful host.

I am a cross-breed. Semi academic and once a dance therapist, I am fascinated by the intangible!  I love reading books by my friend and World Business Academy Fellow, Verna Allee  who writes that in the future, our competitive advantage as businesses, as countries, lie in the spaces between us. That is where creativity and knowledge lie. So living during a time, when there is permission to “feel the spaces in between us” is nothing short of magic. To share the experience of being hosts for the biggest international sporting event is nothing more than a privilege. To simply  love Africa without worrying that you’re not “indigenous” has been liberating.

I have appreciated the permission these times give to all of us to ‘feel it’ and to invite others to to share the feeling.  Checking into Kulula airlines in Johannesburg on June 16th, Simphiwe Moyo, behind the counter,  looked at me straight in the eye and said, “are you feeling it?”. I smiled and said” Yes I am!  Are you?”  And what passed was a lovely moment of mutual recognition. Ineffable, intangible, and never to be forgotten.  A memory of a moment which speaks volumes about this time. I loved not simply the uncomplicated directness of  his enquiry, but also the freedom to connect, human being to human being without the constraints of rank, privilege or what is deemed an appropriate “professional” question on the job.

What is “ feeling it”?  That day, that moment,’ it ‘was the connection, and the excitement in the interconnection and the pride of being hosts to the world. It’s about the freedom to be connected, to invite connection. For me it was the joy of being in South Africa at her best, and enjoying  fellow South Africans at their best. 

I wanted to experience how other people were” feeling it” in different places. I invited some friends to Mzolis-’s well known to locals in Cape Town, a successful butchery turned restaurant in Guguletu township. ( Even Jamie Oliver visited Mzolis!) From the moment the car journey began from Cape Town’s city bowl to Guguletu, I was laughing. One of our group, is a South African actor recently returned from seventeen years in Canada, where he developed a thriving business as a “voice-over artist”. On the way there, we were regaled with stories of  unimaginable assignments and hilarious accents – one was GPS recording in a Borat accent. This is absolutely true. This product is available!

The laughter turns to temporary sobriety when we enter Mzoli’s place.  Delightful in its simplicity, there are long tables with benches and plastic chairs and a variety of televisions screens large and small.  Coming from the rarified country air of Franschhoek, however versatile my tastes in music, even taking pride in a long standing African music collection, it was difficult to cope with the extremely loud and unpleasant sounds of hip hop, or whatever  unharmonious tones appealed to the disc jockey. Blissed out by the music, wearing headphones, undoubtedly to give his audience the “subtleties” of whatever what playing, he was oblivious. Not afraid to ask for help when supremely uncomfortable, I spoke to a young man in dreadlocks who seemed to be in charge and I said, “ would you mind playing the music a little softer?”  He looked at me and said” We don’t DO soft”.  While I enjoyed his assertiveness, I quietly wondered how we would get through an hour of this unharmonious din. We were unlikely to get used to this volume – even the earplug didn’t work. Eventually I was referred to the owner, Mzoli himself, who was very accommodating and saw to it, that the volume was turned down.

We slowly saw Mzoli’s place fill up and vuvuzelas began to sound as more and more people took their places. People of all ages, all races, all freely expressing their fan loyalties and their heroes in their garb. Some wore T-shirts that said Messi, 11;  or Ronaldo 10.  Taken up by the spirit, I had invested in a Ghana scarf and large Ghana flag which I didn’t quite know how to wear or how to juggle with a long shawl.

 And then the game began. Holland was playing Brazil. At this point, it was difficult to tell which team the audience was supporting. It simply didn’t seem to matter.  A group of six African women sat in the row just in front of us.  If Brazil scored they cheered, if Holland scored, they cheered! They were feeling the joy of the game – their excitement followed the ball and the players who played fantastic soccer. They did their own individual moves and sometimes spontaneously entered into more choreographed rhythmic group moves, side to side, in unison.

Holland won the game, the vuvuzelas went wild, the TV commentary and debrief was immediately switched off and the loud music resumed!!!  And people simply started dancing – some on the tables, most on the floors. At that point, I was ‘feeling it” so much that it was impossible not to be swept up into spirit of celebration.  It was so easy to connect – to give people high fives, and flow into the dancing.  Dance for has always been the best way to “feel it”. Not even caring about the volume of the music, I abandoned the Ghana flag on our table and just entered the fray.  

Marc, my Swiss friend, shyly held up the flag high, dancing behind it. And it was in the dance, I found myself connecting with three young African men – I forgot about the loudness, just dancing in a blissful sea of joy was all I could feel.  There were signals from my guests that it was then time to go – so I pick up my shawl, the Ghana flag and scarf and place them awkwardly around my neck not quite knowing what to do.  Before long, my three dancing partners “dressed me up” like a proud Ghana fan.  They tied the scarf around my head, the flag around my body and placed a pair of large yellow plastic sunglasses on my face.  Before I knew it, there I was dancing again –  with my new found friends. All I felt was happiness – Jabulani – the name of our South African Fifa soccer ball – and the dizzying experience of connection and the shared anticipation of a Ghana victory that night, which unfortunately was not to be.

Later that night – I recalled one of my favourite quote from one of West Africa’s finest social philosophers, Leopold Senghor.  I lived the philosophical sentence which for him best describes Africa’s way of being. “ I feel the other, I dance the other, therefore I am”.  A mini epiphany flashed through my mind – why listen to the commentary when you can feel it?  Sure beats Descartes – I think therefore I am.