I’m English. I moved to Swellendam, South Africa almost 14 years ago. I’m also not in the first flush of youth, which is my excuse for not having been able to pick up Afrikaans, apart from the odd swear word and also a few brilliant words for which there is no direct translation. (Babbelas, lekker, janeer, frot, etc)
So, when it comes to International Sport, I have always been torn when South Africa face off against England, my birthplace, my home for over 50 years, the home still the home of my family and friends, all those things that encourage a sense of patriotism. I tend to say – (amusing probably only myself) “oh look, its ‘we’ against ‘us’ – and claim victory whichever side wins.
I am also not a keen Rugby fan, which is something I normally keep very quiet about in this little town of Swellendam (which in 2010 was reputed to be the town with the least interest in the Footie World Cup, but which eventually and begrudgingly put up a few flags and indulged in cakes and face-paint at the local pub). This is a majority Rugby town and watching the (to me incomprehensible) game on the big screen with locals at the pub has been useful only insofar as the development of my Afrikaans vocabulary…. (the swear word bit, obviously)
This year I was in Namibia for the final of the World Cup. A long planned holiday which did not quite turn out as we had expected … but that’s a story for another day …. found me sitting in a pub on November 2nd with 23 English people, who were anxiously awaiting the glory that they believed was inevitably going to be theirs. The National Anthems kicked off – and they sang God Save the Queen with as much enthusiasm as it is possible to muster for such a dreary anthem.
Yes, I said “they”. Not “we” Because – despite the fact that I had always believed myself to be non-partisan when it came to the 2 teams in world challenges – my heart was filled with pride and belief in the green shirted Bokke. Up we (husband and I) got and sang our hearts out to the inspiring South African National Anthem. OK the first part and then mumble mumble and then SOUTH AFRICA OUR LAND! at the end. (I think quite a lot of South Africans do that too, so I don’t feel guilty)
I could not take my eyes off the screen – I was transfixed. Although I still didn’t really understand what was going on, I knew when to cheer – it was when our companions groaned. Gradually I began to get the hang of it, and was drawn more and more deeply into the game. Something had changed in my heart – there was no conflict of interest, no torn loyalties – I was 100% behind the South African team. I was vaguely aware that had I been watching in the pub back at Swellendam, I might have had to hide this new passion, as it would have spoiled the fun of those who enjoy the game of “Baiting the Brit” – but there was no need to hide it here.
Bless them, the English supporters were magnanimous in defeat – they admitted not only were the English outplayed but that the win would mean so much more to South Africa than it would mean to their Brexit fixated, football favouring England.
Coming to terms with my new, authentic loyalty has meant examining what patriotism actually is and how far I would go to express my love … the thought of gift wrapping some Faf de Klerk Budgie Smugglers as a Christmas gift for husband was tempting, but then the thought that he might actually wear them kicked in, and the horror of that optic put an end to that idea.
Allegiances to a team are formed young and are because of locality, birth, heredity. Some can be entirely irrational at the beginning – (I became a long time supporter of West Bromwich Albion in the 70’s on the grounds that Cyrille Regis “had lovely legs”) Once formed, the strength of the bond can be unbreakable.
I was bemused by the phenomenon of the South African All Black supporters proudly displaying the silver fern emblem. While all South Africans were overcome with joy at the win, it might have been a different story if the final had been against New Zealand. So I did my research and discovered the historical and political background to this support. There remains some controversy about this, which is not my place to comment on, but for those of you who would like to know more, here is an op-ed which may give some insight: “There is a simple explanation for this phenomenon … Read more..
Donovan is a passionate All Blacks supporter.
Nevertheless, he swallowed his pride, sold his soul, and created a mural on the side of a wall of a house in the local community of Railton. (While wearing his All Blacks Shirt)
He put up with much teasing and banter, as he had been such a vocal supporter of the All Blacks throughout the tournament – and has even produced a range of hand-painted All Black mugs
Alongside his passion for Art and or the All Blacks, Donovan has another passion. He believes in dreams, in aspiration and hope – and that everything is achievable if you dare to dream.
SO .. he wants to get Siya Kolisi to Swellendam. He wants him to talk to the youth in the community and for Siya to help him to get the message across to them that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE if you DARE2DREAM .He is encouraging everybody to go and take a #SelfiewithSiya . and post it on Social Media #swellieswantssiya.
Don’t be under the illusion that this is a piece of self aggrandizement – Donovan is one of the most humble,grateful people you could ever meet. He recently held an exhibition of art in a local restaurant and donated 50% of the proceeds to 3 local charities – and make no mistake – this man has very little to call his own.
If you would like to support Donovan’s efforts to get Siya to Swellendam – make your way to 12 Sofietjie Street, Railton Swellendam and take your selfie – and post it everywhere you can!
I am writing this the day after my ex country went to the polls. Since living here, we have chosen not to vote, arguing that we have forfeited our right to have a say in a country in which we have chosen not to live. On this occasion, however after the last few years of watching the country being divided, torn apart, focused on a single issue, to the detriment of any other kind of development – we used a proxy vote. The candidate we voted for did secure her seat, taking it from the noxious Tory incumbent, but most of the rest of the country seemed to have been taken in by the spin and grin of a blonde buffoon.
So, it is time. Time to stop watching BBC news, and start watching News 24. Time to call a barbecue a braai and learn to do it properly. Time to get that Afrikaans learned and also have a go at Xhosa, (got to master those clicks). Time to stop watching Midsomer Murders and embrace the South African soapies. Time to stop telling our South African friends ‘how we do this in Britain”. Time to rejoice with our fellow South Africans as they continue to excel on the world platform in Sport, Ballet, Music, Beauty, Art and more.
Time to dedicate ourselves to learning the whole of the National Anthem.