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Embracing the Football World Cup in Africa

Opinion

Related:  Will the FIFA World Cup also bring visitors to uShaka Marine World?  / African Zoos and Aquariums Gathering in Uganda  

By Judy Mann

The hype promised huge economic benefits to those prepared to invest financially in activities that would benefit tourists visiting from around the world. Unfortunately the hundreds of thousands of tourists have not materialised and for many the World Cup has not been a financial success, however, the success of an event such as a World Cup cannot be measured solely in financial terms. South Africans, at least all those with heart, have embraced the World Cup and it has helped to unite the nation in a way only previously seen at the Rugby World Cup in 1995. Seeing South Africans of all races supporting our national team Bafana Bafana during every game, watching the South African flag flying proudly on cars, hearing the vuvuzelas, seeing the amazing camaraderie between tourists and South Africans at the fan parks, in pubs and on the streets has been quite inspiring, reminding us all that South Africa really is an incredible country, filled with amazing people. The comments of most of the thousands of tourists who braved the potential perils of South Africa have been overwhelmingly positive – most cannot believe how great South Africa really is.

On the uShaka Sea World front we have not experienced the huge influx of visitors promised, however, we have hosted fans from over 20 nations and many different television and press crews. One memorable event stands out as typifying the enthusiasm with which South Africa has embraced the World Cup. While walking a group of Brazilian journalists through the aquarium they heard Portuguese being spoken by a young child. They naturally asked the mother if she was from Brazil “We are from Johannesburg and we speak English.” was her response. Why then was her four year old son singing in Portuguese? It emerged that teachers at the pre school attended by this youngster had decided to use the World Cup to expand the world views of their kids. Dividing the school into countries, each group of children had to learn the national anthem of ‘their’ country and then play a mini football World Cup at school. This youngster was in the Brazil group and had learnt the Brazilian national anthem. Imagine the surprise and pleasure of the Brazilian press crew and guests in the aquarium when they heard their national anthem being sung – at the top of his voice – by a four year old from Johannesburg. That moment really captured the essence of the World Cup in South Africa. We may not have everything that richer and safer countries have, but we do have soul!

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