Why it is that African countries have to go through the painful and expensive exercise of convincing the so-called first world that South Africa, in particular, is ready and capable of hosting the Fifa World Cup?
We toiled culturally to showcase our rainbow nation as not barbaric, and politically to prove a matured democracy and stability, not a state of lawlessness that reigns in the foreigner’s mind, economically so that they don’t think we are a bunch of loiters. Even religiously, to show various and varying fellowship tolerance.
Instead of defending and portraying the reality of the state of readiness, some even — the worst culprits — the local media, also went on a self-imposed exile in solidarity with foreign pessimists.
This does not imply that the media should completely ignore the incomplete England base in Rustenburg or potential transport problems as reported previously.
We are suddenly expected to host and manage the perceptions of foreigners instead of enjoying what ordinarily may come of the greatest football to be hosted in Africa for the first time.
Every time sceptics find satisfactory answers to their perceptions that the stadia will not be completed on time, they soldier on to find another excuse.
A week ahead of the 100-day countdown to kick-off, Rich Mkhondo, the chief communications officer and his team at the 2010 Local Organising Committee, as is norm, had to extend an invitation to 130 journalists from all over the world, from renowned television stations such as the BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, leading newspapers such as Reuters, The Guardian, The Observer and other world online and radio stations, to further assure the world, that we are ready.
This is the first time in the history of the World Cup, that there has been such an elevated beauty parade of the stadiums — just to check the facilities and state of readiness. What a good precedent South Africa has set should Fifa choose to standardise such stringent conditions.
Typically, the questions arose, the usual suspects asked about crime and our capabilities. In Germany, the Frankfurt stadium had a leaking roof during the 2005 Confederations Cup, but that went quietly unreported.
Former SAA CEO Khaya Ngqula was one of the many victims of crime in Germany during the last Fifa world cup. His hotel room was cleaned out by thugs. It was not a big deal.
Certain German skinheads declared certain zones no-go areas for blacks. Again, it was not a big deal.
The state of readiness was probably misjudged by the roads under construction leading to the stadiums, certain sceptics probably just noticed the organised chaos outside of the stadium by constructors, ranging from shacks and office spaces to unpaved routes.
At a press conference to mark the 100-day countdown celebrations at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, Fifa President Sepp Blatter described the World Cup as a “love story” that was becoming a reality.
The “love story” metaphor follows Nelson Mandela’s remarks — when he held the trophy on May 15 2004 in Zurich — that “a dream had come true”.
Fifa General Secretary Jerome Valcke also reiterated his confidence in South Africa hosting a spectacular event saying it was “all systems go”.
“Many countries in Europe dream to have stadiums as good as this one (Moses Mabhida),” he said.
Notwithstanding this painful, yet somewhat necessary exercise that South Africa has to go through to prove to the world that Africa is not a jungle, credit must go to the South African Local Organising Committee, the people of Africa and the government of South Africa.
Today, a nation is united in celebrations. From aviation to security, from broadcasting to telecommunications, from Green Point Stadium in Cape Town to Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, from hospitality to transportation. It is all systems go, come kick-off.
To the doomsayers, the debate about the perceived negative aspects of colonialism has occurred for centuries, among both coloniser and colonised, and continues to the present day through your deeds.
It has perhaps become a habit in first world countries that nothing good will ever come out of Africa. It is perhaps time to shift the habit. It will take convincing way beyond Blatter and others.
Often, changing a habit does seem insurmountable. Many people simply do not have enough motivation to change their habits in a way that would truly affect their perceptions. They cling to those that reward them. Even poorly so.