South Africa and the World Cup - What a Difference a Year Makes

By , Contributor

This week, I happened upon an old boarding pass stuck on the bottom of one of my bags and it hit me that it was exactly one year ago when I stepped off of a peaceful flight to Johannesburg and straight into the maddeningly gorgeous fervor of the World Cup - a veritable global party that goes far beyond soccer, connecting people of different colors, mindsets, and ideals so seamlessly that it's sad it only happens once every four years.

Though I was aware of how fortunate I was to be part of the fanfare at the time, it was only now while looking back that I realize I was also in the midst of a most positive revolution that most believed to be impossible. I was witnessing a piece of history. Everyone said South Africa couldn't do it; it's a beautiful thing when you can prove someone wrong.   

It's hard for anyone to believe the sheer magnitude of the World Cup's influence around the planet, especially if you're American. Growing up with a Portuguese father who fully believed that soccer, in fact, is life, I had a bit of an insider's advantage by default, and I've been carrying on a love affair with the sport, and with South Africa, for quite some time.

As fate would have it, the two were drawn together in the 2010 World Cup, and thus I was drawn to it. For years leading up to the 2010 World Cup, a circle of perpetual doubt emerged - those who bet money on the assumption that South Africa would never be ready, the stadiums wouldn't be complete, the logistics would be convoluted, and the service would be subpar.

Yet here we are, one year later looking at a nation with one of the most successful global events on record under its belt, increasing tourism volumes, a healthier economic state, a strengthened currency, rich cultural explorations, culinary wonders, and  five-star hotels. Cape-Town-named-world-s-top-travel-destination-by-TripAdvisor-users.jpg Cape Town was recently voted #1 city in the world by Trip Advisor readers, and South Africa now proudly holds the title of the Most Valuable African Nation Brand.  Not bad for a country that had to fight just for the benefit of the doubt.

South Africa's own success story from struggle and division to forgiveness and tolerance is far too inspiring to be as overlooked as it often is. Yet, via its impressive show on a global stage, South Africa proved that indeed "we all can just get along."  

Along the streets, in the bars and restaurants, throughout hotel lobbies and shopping malls, the revelers were out en masse day and night... into day. Screaming out scores, proudly wearing their team jerseys, bantering about the day's match outcomes and exchanging jovial jibes followed by laughter and the clinking of glasses. Japanese with Serbians, Ghanaians and Mexicans, Brazilians and Americans, Portuguese and Spanish all speaking the common universal language of soccer.

World Cup South Africa fans.jpgAs for the host country, there was the consistent, inspiring display of millions of South Africans from all backgrounds and walks of life banding together in their yellow Bafana Bafana jerseys in the stadiums, in the fan parks, and in the most run-down townships where TVs barely eked out a connection, chanting together and cheering in absolute unison.

or a moment, neither winning nor losing mattered. Rather, tolerance and acceptance did. It prevailed, and thus a nation grew leaps and bounds in the span of a few weeks, and the passionate display of patriotic unity was a monumental lesson to the world.

To the naysayers who consistently claimed that an African nation could never pull this off, well, they did. Without a glitch, without a hitch, and certainly without incident. Spain may have carried the trophy at the end of the World Cup, but South Africa truly emerged as the clear winner overall and a shining example of how spirit can trump challenges.
World Cup 2014 Brazil.jpg
My dear Brazil, you have a tough act to follow.

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A child of parents both heavily involved in the travel industry, Gabriella Ribeiro Truman was born to do her job. By day she owns and operates Trumarketing, a boutique sales, marketing and PR firm servicing tourism-related clients from around the world. Also a frequent blogger, she produces The Explorateur…

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