I have traveled to South Africa a few times – four, to be exact. We’ve become well acquainted by now. But when I flew back for the fifth time just last month, I knew I’d be flying back to a different South Africa.
A South Africa completely painted in black and red, blue, green, and white.
A South Africa selling plastic vuvuzelas en masse, printing postcards and FIFA tickets by the hundreds, and sewing long bafana bafana scarves around the clock.
I was returning to a country that had waited a long time to fill its collective chest with pride. To stand at its airport arrival gates holding out welcoming hands to any and all that would come to see them stage the world’s biggest sporting event.
I have to say, this country, this continent, has earned its right. It has by and far earned that amount of pride.
Why? Because Africa is something to behold. Its people and its united spirit: even more so.
Standing in the midst of Long Street for the opening match, sandwiched between the thumping heartbeats of South Africans as they held their breath, waiting on a goal, a triumph, was surreal.
The only thing you could feel was spirit.
It pulsed across the country’s history, across their race, across their wars and heroes and stigmas.
And it united the people.
So for South Africa to then score with that spirit in the air?
I’ve never heard an eruption of ecstasy so loud in my entire life.
As a proud Canadian who was in a packed pub when the red and white won the Olympic gold medal game just a few months ago, I thought that was loud! But I was mistaken. Surrounded by the kind of volume that only the most patriotic Africans can produce, I realized there is nothing like African pride.
We, as the rest of the world, are so very lucky to be welcomed by this energy, and welcomed onto South Africa’s stage.
Dani Kreeft is traveling throughout South Africa during the World Cup and already knows the country very well. She writes for a non profit organization called “These Numbers Have Faces.”