I have been talking the talk for several years now.
You know the one. It goes something like this: “one day I want to climb Mount Everest” or “before I die I want to see all the seven wonders of the world”. So it’s only natural that when South Africa won the bid to host the FIFA World Cup back in 2004 that I would declare that I was going to be there.
After all, the 2010 World Cup will be the first tournament in FIFA’s eighty year history to be hosted by an African country. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I mean, when next will the tournament come to Africa? I’m sure that as soon as the decision was made back then, FIFA bosses begun walking the halls, wringing their hands, wondering what kind of calamity would befall them for allowing an African country to host this most important sporting event in the world that makes the entire planet crazy one month every four years.
In fact, various media outlets have not shied away from reminding us that in South Africa, an average of 50 people are murdered on a daily basis or that South Africa is the rape capital of the world with 25% of their men admitting to raping someone at least once; this in a country with the highest number of HIV infected people in the world. So far so cheery right? On top of that, the world’s biggest security firm, G4S, announced last year that it wouldn’t work at FIFA South Africa 2010. Their CE was quoted as saying “G4S regards South Africa as the most dangerous country in the world to work in – ahead of Iraq and Afghanistan.” I’m sure there’s more to that story though.
In either case, the smear campaign has been successful in that fans from the countries that are usually most represented are staying home with the majority of World Cup tickets being sold to fans in America and Australia. Oh well, their loss I suppose. Not that I believe these all to be lies. No, as a solo woman traveler I am concerned for my safety but I believe there’s a certain degree of exaggeration in these reports. After all, South Africa is a major tourism spot and has had experiences hosting rugby and cricket championships.
Talking the talk.
July 9th, 2006 at the E-room in Beantown.
After watching an exhilarating World Cup final match between France and Italy topped with Zindane’s beautiful headbutt the guys around me begin talking the talk. Chale, imagine World Cup 2010, South Africa, I should be there. Ghana must qualify. An African team will win! Home ground chale. We shall win! I joined. Ooooh, you guys are going to South Africa for the World Cup? I want to go too. Can I come? I wanna come. Beautiful!
The high lasted a few days. But gradually, the humdrum of everyday life ensued. Must finish residency. Oh goodness, have begun fellowship and it is kicking my butt.
…until the next spark.
January 2008 at THE business school in Beantown
This time my fellow spectators are a broader group of African men. We are watching the Africa Cup of Nations, specifically Ghana smashing Nigeria and Ghana losing to Egypt. I am proudly wearing my Essien jersey and have eyeshadow on with Ghana’s colours. Again the excitement in the room is more than tangible. Again the talk begins. Chale, World Cup South Africa 2010, I will be there! Again, I begged, oooh, yes guys, let’s go. Can we go? Oh my goodness, don’t leave me out of the plans oooh!
Again the humdrum of everyday life ensued. Fellowship is no joke.
June 2008 in living room at home in Ghana
I am watching the UEFA Euro with my father. Specifically, Turkey advancing on Croatia in penalties.
Me: Daddy, I want to go to South Africa for the World Cup. Don’t you think it would be amazing?
Him: Hmmph, why don’t you just watch it in the comfort of your home?
Me, horrified: No, I can’t just sit alone in my apartment and watch a football match. I need the energy around me, and this is going to be great. Do you think Ghana will qualify?
I return to the US happy to have completed the clinical year of fellowship and looking forward to the breeze of a research year. Little did I know how miserable 2009 would be for me. Not a breeze at all. Let’s just say in the midst of worrying about whether or not I’ll be able to find a job to start paying back my boatload of student loans, going to the World Cup was the least of my concerns.
In fact in the past year or so, whenever anyone would talk about the World Cup, I would feel a twang of extreme jealousy because the reality that I wouldn’t be there was very tangible.
Not wanting to talk the talk.
Phase one of FIFA ticket sales begins as random lottery. There’s talk around of me people registering. I’m just not in the mood. My room-mate is able to nail a few tickets and I’m just purely jealous. How am I going to enter the lottery when I don’t even know what’s going to happen to me financially in a year’s time?
Ghana qualifies for World Cup 2010. I don’t really care!
I do have a job however, but it’s not the best of situations. Plus, I have to take my boards and I really could fail them. And if I really want to go to the World Cup, isn’t it too late? Aren’t the tickets all sold? Aren’t the flights and hotels gone or won’t those that remain be ridiculously expensive? Anyway, if I really want to go I need to be able to re-enter the US. When am I going to have time to go to Ghana before June 2010 to get a new visa stamp? Where can I get a visa stamp if I don’t go to Ghana? Too many questions. Hey, do I really want to be 1 of 50 murdered daily, or 1 in 4 raped? No. I guess that’s the end of that wild fantasy then.
I’ve taken the ID boards and though I don’t feel great they are done! Ghana becomes the first African country to win the U-20 FIFA World Cup and I declare to my parents who are visiting me that I am going to South Africa for the World Cup. Of course, they blow me off.
It’s a repeat of Ghana vs. Nigeria and Ghana vs. Egypt in the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations. Only this time I’m doing time in the tundra where people don’t really care about “soccer” let alone an African championship. I realized then in between catching clips of games on the internet and having to reach out through the phone or the internet to my father and friends around the world to share my thoughts on the games that there was NO WAY that I would be able to sit here in June and July 2010 alone while people, people I know, people like me, are enjoying themselves live in South Africa.
After I decide I would rather rot in hell than continue on with the humdrum of life this summer in a setting where people don’t care about true football, I start to get my act together. First things first, I need a visa to enter Canada so that I can visit the US consulate there for an updated US visa stamp in my passport. But I need the appointment letter from the US consulate in Canada to take with me to the Canadian consulate in the US before I get a Canadian visa, and that is no small feat as it turns out. Beginning to question myself again.
I travel to Beantown to join friends in celebration of Ghana’s independence. Why are guys (the very same ones I watched the 2008 African Cup games with) claiming that they have FIFA tickets, flight tickets, accommodations and none of them thought to include me in the plans?! Oh hell no! I am going to the World Cup too!