Africa is backward and helpless? Wrong!
The South Africans, almost every last one of them, were there to cheer for the Ghanaians. Never mind that they weren't draped in the red, yellow and green of the West African nation, it was obvious anyway - they had come to support a continent.
The 2010 tournament is the first FIFA World Cup on African soil. Two weeks into the event, this fact has been pointed out so often it's practically been robbed of its significance. But as we move into the knockout phase, with only one African team going through, it's a question that needs revisiting: what exactly does it mean that Africa is hosting one of the largest spectacles on earth?
Well, for starters, and to state the glaringly self-evident, it means we can do it. Africa, the proverbial dark continent, the so-called refuge of dictators and thieves, is successfully staging an event of such magnitude and import that it's forcing millions around the world to collectively eat their hats.
Africa is backward and unsophisticated? Wrong. Africa is where white people go to get murdered by marauding black hordes? Wrong. Africa is a hopeless mess that'll never develop itself to the standards of the West? Wrong again.
On Wednesday night, as on many nights during the previous ten days, fans were delivered to Soccer City on a transport system that rivals any in the northern hemisphere. The routes these new busses take from the massive parking garage at the Constitutional Court goes through Hillbrow and the Johannesburg CBD, two of the most notoriously violent parts of the city, and so far there has not been one incident.
Moreover, when the buses arrive safely at their destination, fans are greeted by a competent police force with a genuine willingness to serve.
And this is the second great boon of the 2010 FIFA World Cup: a legacy is being left to an African country that sorely needs one.
In mid-July, when the fans have all left and the stadiums sit empty, South Africa will in all likelihood have something positive to hold-up in the face of its enormous debt. Johannesburg, the economic hub of an entire continent, will finally have a regulated transport grid to rival the mafia-controlled taxi industry; the South African Police, having learned from the best security forces in the world, might finally be able to do their jobs with some authority.
But it's the pride that South Africans feel on an individual level that will be the real bonus. Earlier in the week I picked up a Canadian journalist at the OR Thambo airport, and we drove straight to the Radium Beerhall, a famous pub on Louis Botha Avenue.
The Canadian is an old friend of mine, he grew up in Joburg and knows the city well. His comment was that he'd never seen Louis Botha Avenue looking so respectable - more respectable, he said, than Gerrard Street in Toronto, where he lives.
My friend was stretching the point. Still, the pride I felt at his statement was palpable. It's the same sort of pride the whole nation experienced on Tuesday, when Bafana Bafana beat the French to salvage the country's dignity.
Sure, we're the first host country in history to get knocked out in the first round, but to beat France four-nil would've required a miracle. And miracles aren't what Africa needs. Instead, the continent needs real successes off the pitch. The 2010 Fifa World Cup may be exactly that.
About the Author
Kevin Bloom is an award-winning journalist, editor and author. He has written for a wide array of South African and international publications, including the UK Times, The National of the UAE, and Global Brief of Canada.
Kevin's first book, Ways of Staying, was named amongst the best titles of 2009 by three South African newspapers.
Ways of Staying is published in the UK by Portobello/Granta and distributed in Canada by House of Anansi Press.