In 2010, the sporting world's eyes were fixated on South Africa in anticipation of soccer's biggest spectacle. But six years prior, the groundwork that had been laid to bring the FIFA World Cup to African soil for the first time in history would finally bear fruit.
Elder statesmen Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu led a high-powered delegation to Zurich, Switzerland to represent their country and continent. When FIFA made their decision, stating that the Rainbow Nation would host the 2010 cup, Mandela immediately found the fountain of youth.
"I feel like a young man of 15," said Mandela via The Guardian, then age 85.
Tutu, then 72 years old, felt similarly spry after the news.
"I promise to buy all FIFA executives first-class tickets to heaven," Tutu said. "But first I shall go outside and dance."
It's with this lens of viewing The Journey: Stories From The 2010 FIFA World Cup documentary, that can help one understand how soccer can be transformative. Mandela and Tutu knew immediately what the ramifications would be of hosting such a celebration, and the world would have to ask themselves, why FIFA hadn't taken their talents to the motherland sooner?
Nelson Mandela, right, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in Zurich in 2004 after South Africa was named the host for the 2010 soccer World Cup. (Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images)
I'll admit, I began this journey by going down various rabbit holes. From stocking up on groceries and spirits for delivery to looking up a scuba regulator to buy for my next vacation, this is what self-quarantine will do to you. Eventually, I landed on Amazon Prime and found a ton of FIFA documentaries just waiting to be binge-watched.
If you're looking for a quick fix, I would suggest watching the mashups of "All The Goals" from each of the World Cups. However, if you have time, sink your teeth into The Journey.
Before we continue, let me provide a bit of transparency. I'm not a fan of municipalities overspending for stadia as a means of securing facilities for major sporting events. The 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifies as just that, as there are now white elephants dispersed around the country with very few opportunities to actually fill them. Moreover, when I traveled to Johannesburg in 2016, it is obvious that while there was a major investment in the stadiums themselves, seeing that cashflow disperse into the townships and cities that support the area did not happen.
And yet, the people in Jozi, Durban, Cape Town, Pretoria and other regions of the country found their rallying cry behind Bafana Bafana, South Africa's men's National Football team.
Here are a few takeaways from the documentary that I fell in love with.
- Everything Archbishop Desmond Tutu says in the documentary is gold, including giving an inspirational speech to Denmark prior to their group match game. Tutu promised them they would win, unless they end up playing South Africa. Then he promised that they will lose, because of course.
- Legendary jazz musician Hugh Masakela (yes, the daddy of ESPN and MTV talent Sal Masakela) providing the soundtrack of the World Cup was fun as hell, especially when he practiced his ad-libs and orchestration with his band.
- Watching captain Aaron Mokoena describe Bafana Bafana scoring the first goal of the tournament. I dare you not to get the chicken skins.
- Watching Cristiano Ronaldo have fun with the kids, because you forget that the man is in fact a human.
You need things to watch during this time, and this is something that provides education and entertainment. So pop some popcorn, set aside an hour and watch Madiba turn into a gleeful teen again over his beloved soccer team.
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