Sixteen years after experiencing the unforgettable rush of belonging and relief at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994, I felt it again last month: at the Free State stadium in Bloemfontein, watching the South African national team play their last World Cup game on 22 June. We beat France 2-1, and although the victory was insufficient to qualify us into the next round, the consensus across the country following the game was that “we won!”

Why? First, because the Bafana Bafana (Zulu term of endearment meaning “the boys”) played at last with optimism, unity, and occasional brilliance; as good a recipe as any for a nascent national identity. Second, because we proved to a sceptical world – and thus ourselves – that we could host a World Cup, a hopeful corrective against the negativity that keeps tourists and investment away. Third, because if our government could deliver the world’s biggest mega-sporting event so efficiently, surely it could tackle South Africa’s social and economic ills with similar resolve. But “we won” most of all, because we could finally say “we”.

Mooier dan Mark Gevisser kan ik het niet opschrijven. Afgelopen zaterdag verscheen in The Guardian van de hand van deze Zuid-Afrikaanse journalist het artikel ‘we did it, we showed the world’.

De advertentie afdeling van de Zuid-Afrikaanse krant The Sunday Times zorgde voor het beeldmateriaal, een impressie:

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