How the World Cup has encouraged patriotism in South Africa – Fly the Flag Campaign and show support!

By David R. Walker (Southboy)

Fly the Flag campaign originally launched in April 2009, whilst gathering momentum has exploded in a brash and colourful fashion in South Africa as the opening game of the World Cup was played at Soccer City in Johannesburg between South Africa and Mexico on Friday 11th June 2010. In a country once divided and thought never to be reconciled with its apartheid past, South Africa has truly shown a sense of patriotism and all citizens that make up the cultural and diverse segments of South African society are decorating their cars with the national flag, wearing fashions depicting the rainbow flag while shops and restaurants are flying flags and a infectious sense of patriotism has gripped South Africa never seen before since the birth of the democratic country 16 years ago in 1994.

The new South African flag unveiled on the date of the first democratic elections held on the 27th April 1994, now a national holiday known simply as Freedom Day replaced the old South African flag which was reminiscent of the colonial and apartheid history that characterized a once isolated country. The new flag with a multitude of colours from black, gold, green, white, chili red and blue was a symbol of a unified country, a new South Africa, and become synonymous with the country’s greatest and most respected leader Nelson Mandela. More importantly the new SA Flag officially represented the convergence of diverse elements of a multicultural and economically disparate society. Nelson Mandela, as the first democratically elected black president of the country in 1994, became a symbol of national unity when in 1995 the former president displayed his support behind the SA national rugby team, the Springboks who beat New Zealand in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. This historic reflection of unity and the power of symbolic patriotism were dramatized recently in Clint Eastwood’s excellent 2010 Oscar Nominated film Invictus.

Now with the 2010 World Cup, that national patriotism has swelled to epic proportions embracing all aspects of South African society. The SA Flag which is now flown by every citizen in the country thanks to Fly the Flag campaign has galvanized a nation into a patriotic fever, and is vital in demonstrating psychological and social support for their national football team, Bafana Bafana, showing that sport can be a unifying factor in any nation’s turbulent history. If a nation is behind their favourite team, whatever the sport, then there is a massive impetus to play beautifully and more importantly to win. If sport is a substitute for war, the one constant in both collective human interactions, one competitive and the other deadly, is the flying of a country’s flag. Both sport and war illicit in the hearts of men a patriotic sense of duty to their country and an opportunity to play or fight to be the overall winner, and goes back for centuries to the competitive instinct in all men for pride, glory and recognition.
On the day of the opening Ceremony of the World Cup, in every daily newspaper purchased stickers of the SA flag were given away to readers to be distributed on cars, windows and houses – patriotism on the day of the opening Ceremony was at Fever pitch – literally, as the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) says – Feel it. It is here! With a 1-1 draw of South Africa and Mexico at the opening game held at Soccer City, and a unified backing of the whole of the country behind Bafana Bafana, this World Cup will certainly be a great battle of David vs. Goliath, with SA national soccer team ranked at 83rd in the world drawing against Mexico, rated 17th in the FIFA rankings.

The World Cup’s Opening Ceremony was bright, vibrant and colourful emphasizing the historic nature of such an event, the first to be held in an African city and on the continent. Johannesburg, the city of Gold, one of the 40 largest metropolitan areas in the world, a metropolis rich in mineral wealth and financial strength and one of the youngest in the world, reflects the diversity and potential of any international city rivaling Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, London, Berlin and Beijing with its massive infrastructure, goldmines, and claiming the rightful title as Africa’s economic powerhouse. With the stunning Soccer City in Soweto and the vast expansive African sky, the Opening Ceremony showed the world the true potential of Africa as a rich and vibrant continent, energetic, passionate and maturing in its journey to take centre stage in the world eclipsing Europe and the Americas.

Every International TV News channel from Al-Jazeera to the BBC had one major story on Friday 11th June, the historic and spectacular opening of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Even though in 2006 South Africa missed the opportunity to host the event, with Germany becoming the host nation, it was written in the stars for South Africa to prove to the world that by 2010, economically, politically and as a nation, we are a country to be reckoned with, despite all the negative publicity and the Afro-pessimistic perceptions that the World Cup would not be successful if ever held in Africa. Positive in the face of adversity and criticism, South African has shown the true colours of the rainbow nation, a concept first marketed in 1994 and now in the 21st century has proven that patriotism is strong and integral to the passionate competiveness of Football. South Africa is flying the flag and reaping the rewards of six years of hard work, planning and preparation and a definitive psychological campaign to spread patriotism and unity to all its citizens, despite economic, social or cultural differences. Feel it! South Africa and the World Cup are finally here!!!

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