Sunday, 21 October 2007

South Africa 15 - 6 England

So South Africa won the world cup. I'm glad about that. I think it's important that sport reflects wider realities than just what happens off the pitch, and rugby union means more to South Africa than it does to any other nation spiritually, politically and culturally.

I feel sorry for Afrikaners. In Japan I worked with four or five white South Africans - members of the diaspora of exiles which has slowly spread across the globe - and always found them funny, sharp and refreshingly blunt in speech; sort of like people from the North of England transplanted to the Transvaal. But they were all tinged by the same sort of melancholy: that circumstances had forced them to leave the country of their birth and that they loved.

I never got the impression that they'd left South Africa due to sour grapes, or hatred of black people. The reasons cited were depressingly similar to those which motivate most economic migration - lack of opportunities at home and too much crime and violence. But I also got the feeling that they felt somehow weighed-down by the shame of apartheid - which after all they had nothing to do with, being too young to have been meaningfully involved in its perpretration, but which nevertheless made them guilty by association. It's the same emotion that you can see in middle-aged and younger Germans, who still feel the crimes of the past bearing down on them - and are consequently uncomfortable with the easy and natural patriotism that much of the rest of the world feels.

The rugby team's victory in the world cup of 1995, and now 2007, is a great alleviater of that. South Africans of every colour are unified by sporting success, and just as the 2006 football world cup finally seemed to lift the German nation and make it acceptable to be proud of Germany again, so the Springboks' triumph on the rugby pitch means something more than just simply jingoistic one-up-manship. And the rest of the rubgy-playing world bows down and praises God that it wasn't boring old England - because another four years of crowing would have been too much to bear.

1 comment:

zero_zero_one said...

I had only just got back from Cardiff when it had started... Can't remember what my family were watching. I flicked over two minutes before full time, noticed the score and changed back to whatever they were watching.

Oh well.