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World Cup Fever

15 July, 2010 09:19  Erin Erin

Vuvuzelas made their last trumpets, tvs flickered off around the world, and the Dutch returned the 120 caravans they rented to attend the world cup in South Africa. The furious month-long competition (June 11th to July 11th, 2010) is suddenly put to rest as one team has claimed the title of champions of the FIFA 2010 World Cup.

South Africa's World Cup

South AfricaIn South Africa, there was wild anticipation as well as an edge of apprehension. It had been a long road to getting an African nation selected as host. This was the first World Cup bidding process under continental rotation and African nations could bid. In 2004, the international football federation, FIFA, selected South Africa over Egypt and Morocco to become the first African nation to host the finals. South Africa had been only narrowly defeated in its 2006 bid and this selection marked a change in Africa's status, worthy of international sports play.

Since the announcement, South Africa, and Africa as a whole, have been working to create the transportation, facilities, and hotels necessary to host a World Cup. The Gautrain is a sleek, modern, high-speed train that was completed just in time to serve the hordes of Cup fans. Unfortunately, this did not abate the need of residents who deal with little or no public transportation. There has also been an emphasis on "cheer" as one South African expat puts it. Kay Johnstone (an expat in South Africa reporting in the Daily Telegraph, last June) comments:

"employees have been encouraged to wear football jerseys to work every Friday - known as Football Fridays. And we've even been subjected to a daily "countdown” on the radio."

This kind of forced cooperation can be hard for people to enjoy.

Nevertheless the enthusiasm was, at times, uncontainable. Kay continues:

"...I happened to be in one of our local supermarkets just before kick-off at 4pm. The public address system came on, and it was announced that the staff would sing the national anthem as a gesture of support to the team. As their voices soared out of the loudspeakers and from the tillpoints, many of the customers stopped their shopping and joined in – and it was beautiful."

This pride and excitement of one expat was echoed across the world as people rooted for the countries they were born in, rooted for countries they had adopted for their own, and many people simply rooting for Africa.

Along with standard worries about transportation and hotels, critics of the Cup being held in Africa were worried about South Africa's controversial history, financial instability, and crime. In the past, football/soccer has been a "black sport", where the white people of the region favor rugby. But the World Cup passed without major incident and with this competition all South Africans, Africans, and people across the world felt a togetherness watching Africa host a successful competition. Global goodwill has never been stronger in the world of sports.
Africa's success has even brought talk of a bid on the 2020 Olympics.

StarMore information in our guide for expatriates moving and living in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Expats and the World Cup

Soccer, football, or simply "the beautiful game" has long united very different countries in match-ups that are both competitive and a sharing of cultures. This 19th cup has been called "the first real digital World Cup" and was expected to be the most-watched television event in history with about 70 countries and 26 billion people around the globe tuning in. "With games airing live on cell phones and computers, the World Cup will get more online coverage than any major sporting event yet," said Jake Coyle of the Associated Press. For one month, eyes around the world united on one event.

The World Cup is special in unifying players from the same country. So often professional players are expats themselves, playing in countries far from their home. The Global Herald put together a chart showing the most represented national leagues at the World Cup 2010. English leagues had the most players in the cup, with the Germany league the next best represented. No doubt each player is proud of its professional team, but one of the reasons the World Cup holds such special regard is the national pride of the countries best playing under their flag.

Besides the players, there are multitudes of expat fans that celebrate the World Cup. FIFA set up six large scale viewing stations around the world, with an additional nine in South Africa for fans to watch, cheer, and mingle. Aside from these large scale viewings, in almost every city, every town, expats gathered to watch "their" team. Morning, afternoon, evening, or very early morning, expats came together and found common ground.

The Finals: Netherlands v. Spain

The 32 teams were whittled down to an all European final of Netherlands v. Spain. Uruguay and Germany had played on Saturday to determine their positions (4th and 3rd, respectively), and Sunday, July 11th, was the final in Soccer City, Johannesburg. Both Netherlands and Spain had never won a World Cup before, but Spain was recognized as the favorite as it entered the cup as the current European champions.

The match was rocky, with thirteen yellow cards given out- mostly to the Netherlands. Brutal and combative, it was not a pretty game. English referee, Howard Webb, added to Netherlands problems by dismissing defender John Heitinga. The game continued into extra time and in the 116th minute Andrés Iniesta finally put Spain ahead with a spectacular long range goal. Spain won the FIFA 2010 World Cup!

As the players return to their respective countries and adopted leagues, it is important to remember the things that unite and define people, even when they are away from home.

For Kay Johnstone's full story and more from expats around the world and the 2010 World Cup:

Erin Ball
Freelance Writer from Seattle




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