Welcome to the fever that cures

On the Friday morning preceding the kick-off of the Fifa World Cup, I was stuck in traffic listening to a lecture. A man standing at the back of the truck in front of me pointed his vuvuzela in my direction and started blowing his own unique anthem heralding the magical day.

quote The profundity of this event is its magical power to unite quote

I don’t like the sound of a vuvuzela. On any other day, I would have found his action intrusive. On the eve of this great national festival, I perceived it as a gesture of friendship. I felt inspired and privileged by this stranger reaching out to me as a comrade, inviting me to share a moment of unbridled joy, national pride and esprit de corps.

In spite of my personal lack of sportiness, I was instantly connected to all the flag flying, vuvuzela blowing, cheering South Africans, overjoyed at the arrival of the Fifa World Cup. I suddenly felt an itch to attend the second soccer match of my life, the first one having been about 40 years ago.

The profundity of this event is not about sport, nor the obsession of many – the money spent on hosting the event. It is about the magical power it has had to bind so many people in a common purpose and a sense of shared destiny.

This is a country in which people have been conditioned to perceive and consequently define others by what is different and what separates us. This period offers us the opportunity to focus our attention on all that we have in common and to look good-humouredly at each other’s idiosyncrasies or behaviour, in the process pushing us out of our conventional comfort zones.

We shared a unique experience on “football Fridays”, in which the mighty and the meek were indistinguishable because they were not wearing any signs of difference. We should use this awareness to recognise that people who play up difference and sow seeds of division and mistrust are operating out of self-interest. People intent on serving the greater good encourage others to unite by focussing on common interests and shared values and ideals. People feel part of each other when they find out what they have in common, what they share and the way in which they are similar.

The recognition of what binds us together gives us the expansiveness to host each other’s differences in a spirit of generosity and tolerance. Hosting each other’s uniqueness affords us the opportunity to experience the richness that comes from looking at the world in new ways, through the eyes of people who see things differently.

I fervently hope Fifa World Cup fever becomes an incurable pandemic.

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