I’m a big supporter of sport as a mechanism of nation-building in South Africa. In our fragile society it is probably the most successful leveler of us as a nation, irrespective of race, culture or religion. The problem is that we only seem to come together as a nation when our national sporting teams are winning.
In any event, the two sports which probably have been responsible for the biggest up swell of nation-building at various times are soccer and rugby.
Our national soccer team, Bafana Bafana has never won the world cup, although we did win the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996. The symbol most associated with South African soccer is the very unique vuvuzela. A long trumpet-like instrument, it makes a loud honking sound that will scare the living daylights out of anyone not expecting the blast of ear-splitting sound. The sounds of cheering and commentating are drowned out by its power.
During the World Cup tournament held in South Africa in 2010 this became a controversial talking point because no one outside of South Africa knew about it. Overseas players and fans got quite the culture shock (and many ear plugs were sold by pharmacies country-wide) when they heard it for the first time.
It is a hazard to one’s hearing and if blown in close range will ensure ringing of the ears for a while afterwards and can cause permanent hearing loss for unprotected ears. It’s not everybody that can blow into one of these things and make a noise though. It takes real skill and practice for it not to come out as an embarrassing “pffiiittt”.
The South African national rugby team are known as the Springboks, our national animal. The Springboks are relatively successful and have won the world cup twice, in 1995 and 2007. No vuvuzelas in rugby, but rather beer, biltong and naartjies. The rugby world cup starts on Friday in England and once again we have our hopes pinned on one of our national teams, affectionately known as “The Bokke”.