Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

Following the kick-off of the World Cup last Friday, Sokari Ekine finds herself torn between joining in with the ‘hooray vuvuzela-blowing madness’ and watching the games, or blanking out ‘the whole flag-waving charade.’ Ekine reports back from the African blogosphere with its views on the matter, as well on the unawarded Mo Ibrahim Prize, homosexuality and homophobia in Africa and the Niger Delta Amnesty.

Finally it has arrived – World Cup 2010, after months of debate in the international and South African media on the pros and cons of the tournament being held in South Africa. The games kicked off on Friday with the host country drawing with Mexico. The hype around the games seems to have reached new levels but really there is nothing unusual about this year’s World Cup – which along with the Olympics is THE major international sporting event – except that it is taking place in Africa. FIFA decides and controls everything around the World Cup – they are owners of the event from decisions on who gets advertised, WC products, music, what takes place in and outside the stadium, the food which is sold, where the teams stay and even words. FIFA actually own words and phrases and have managed to persuade the government to suspend the right to protest. South Africa is simply the host with no real powers.

The four main criticisms are the massive financial cost of hosting the event at the expense of far more pressing housing needs; the role of FIFA in dictating the terms of the tournament; the displacement and forced evictions of low-income residents and shack dwellers; and the exclusion of street traders from selling their wares at the venues. Nonetheless the response from the start of the games has been overwhelmingly positive with the nation going football crazy, a real opium for the masses as all sense of reality is thrown out of the window.

I wondered how many would actually turn up to the protests planned by the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign and Abahlali baseMjondolo – would they not also be watching the games? Some of us have struggled with how to respond now the games are actually here. Do we join in the hooray vuvuzela-blowing madness and watch the games or do we blank out the whole flag-waving charade? As a football-loving fan, I decided to try and selectively focus on the game of football (which incidentally has been impossible due to the incessant noise produced by thousands of vuvuzelas for 90 minutes) and keep as far away as possible from Coca Cola and K’naan flag-waving.

Patrick Bond aptly described the start of the games as a ‘formidable shock-and-awe campaign against the senses’. It’s wholly depressing and I completely agree. FIFA World Cup™ and CocaCola® copyrighted everything – no one can write, speak, or wear anything that has not already been commandeered by these two corporate predators:

‘Damn, in my 48 years I have never seen a hip-hyper-hysterical commercio-nationalist flag-waving horn-tooting onslaught like CocaCola® v the masses.

‘But let's face it, this is one of the most formidable shock-and-awe campaigns against the senses – and common sense -–ever created, reaching out to a billion tv watchers across the world plus audiences here at SA ground zero.

‘CocaCola® must have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on feel-good “open happiness”™ (yeah, they copyrighted those two words together). How devious is that, to get a very suave Somalian, K'NAAN, as lead singer, drawing in top-knotch African artists?’

Former Cameroonian football start, Roger Milla has also been coca-colarised as he appears in the TV commercial ‘History of Celebration’ - yet another example of the depressing banality and supremacy of commercialism in this World Cup.

Enough of my commentary; I am expanding this round up to include soundtracks, videos and photo montages.

Starting with music, Dakar’s Nomadic Wax & DJ Magee’s ’World Cup’,which brings together a global collaboration of hip-hop artists to explore the ‘complexities and controversies’ of the World Cup in South Africa. Next ‘’Shame on the Game’ by Creamy Ewok Baggends, who sing about the Khulumani Support Group, currently involved in the prosecution of five multinationals involved in Apartheid and who are also investors in the World Cup.

The Chomsky AllStars’ rap against the World Cup with ‘The Beautiful Gain’. Finally in the interest of balance and to those lucky folk who have so far avoided hearing the ‘Waving Flag’ anthem by K’Naan, here is link.

The Centre for Civil Society has produced a montage representing the ‘Political Economy of the World Cup’ – it’s in pdf format and can be downloaded here.

One example of the jubilation around the World Cup comes from Paul Zeleza onThe Zeleza Post who just about speaks for the majority of bloggers as he can hardly contain his excitement at the start of the games evoking ‘African Nationalism’ and desires to be included in the global community:

‘For many Africans across the continent and in the diaspora the World Cup represents football nationalism that transcends nationality; it evokes their Pan-African quest to belong to the world and the world to belong to them with their full dignity as human beings. In the words of Adichie, "our football nationalism, then, symbolizes a cathartic, even if fleeting, addressing of historical and political grievances. It is a platform on which to stand and say that we may not be part of the G8 who decide the fate of the world, we may always rank on the bottom of health and government and economic indexes, we may have crumbling institutions and infrastructure, but hey, we won by sheer talent and grit. And a lot of the boys started playing without shoes. Now imagine what we could do if we all had shoes - literal and metaphorical - from the beginning.’

Finally the Poor People’s World Cup kicked off on Sunday and will be played each Sunday over the tournament. A great idea but very disappointing that women soccer teams were not invited to participate?

‘At the meeting where the programme of the day was discussed, the coordinators explained that this tournament is not only for the soccer teams, but also for the whole community and for the people who struggle everyday against water and electricity cut-offs and against evictions from their homes and working places. The message during the meeting was clear: while the poor people in Cape Town and in South Africa as a whole are suffering, the rich are enjoying themselves in the expensive stadiums at the expenses of the poor.’

Despite the World Cup, the continent has not come to a football standstill. Kenyan blog, You Missed This has a strange story about serial killers in Kenya. Apparently there are more that we would want to know! Philip Onyancha is one who has been associated with the cult movement:

‘The bottom line is that even as Kenyans call for Onyacha to be locked up and the key thrown as far away as possible, the truth is that there are many more ruthless serial killers out there. It appears that even as the rich worry about criminals who will kill them for their car or ATM card, now it seems that the poor too have reason to worry about a new breed of criminal who will kill them for their blood. Or to ask ransom from their jobless relatives.’

Mental Acrobatics, who is back after a long blogging absence, reports on the Mo Ibrahim prize for African heads of state. For the second year running the prize has not be awarded to anyone:

‘The prize is awarded to a democratically elected former African Executive Head of State or Government who has served their term in office within the limits set by the country’s constitution and has left office in the last three years. The Prize consists of USD 5million over 10 years and USD 200,000 annually for life thereafter. It is the largest annually awarded prize in the world. The Foundation will consider granting a further USD 200,000 per year, for 10 years, towards public interest activities and good causes espoused by the winner.

‘If I was Kufuor or Mbeki I’d be sulking. Obasanjo can’t be seriously considered can he? Not that they need the money! Obasanjo certainly doesn’t!’
Gay Uganda comments on the ‘non’-gay agenda which is occupying anti-homosexual media and politicians following the pardoning of the Malawian couple a few weeks ago. He makes the interesting point on the realisation that rather than homosexuality being imported from the West, it has been hate and homophobia which the West (the US) has been exporting to Africa:

‘A gay African is considered a pariah, un-African, un-patriotic. We are vilified in church, mosque, the public spheres and the private. And, fellow Africans believe the lies of gay agenda etc.

‘Yet, it is also a fact that the recent events in Uganda and Malawi, and Kenya, did draw a seemingly disproportionate attention from the west. Why was that?

‘In part, I think it is because of the realization that a proxy war is raging in Africa. The American cultural wars. I believe that is the reason why the story had such carrying power in the US. The fact that, though the west is being accused of “exporting” homosexuality, a case was made and literally proven, of the export of hate- homophobia. The war did go back home, to the US… and there, there were some real advantages.’

Black Looks posts her thoughts on the Nigerian Amnesty nine months on:

‘The amnesty has been a sham from the beginning. The cost of doing so could well have been put towards building health centers, schools and other infrastructure for the communities and begin to erode the reasons behind the militancy in the first place. The deal included a $500 a month payment to an undisclosed number of militants that could run into thousands of dollars a month. The fact that no one seems to know the exact number of recipients or even the number of weapons handed in, is of great concern. The promised rehabilitation through training and job creation for the militants which was supposed to immediately address the underdevelopment in the region has not taken place, at least not in any meaningful sense.’


* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.