South Africa | At the top of our thoughts, near the bottom of the world

These shifts contrast with the 46 years of apartheid that followed its imposition by the National Party in 1948. Diversity that had been feared is celebrated in South Africa’s 11 official languages, nine of them indigenous. Translators remain poised in parliament to interpret between Sesotho and IsiZulu, if necessary.

The insularity of the country during apartheid was such that Harry Gwala, an ANC and Communist Party member imprisoned eight years on Robben Island, charged himself with introducing inmates to the “whole big world of football.” The other soccer players, which included the country’s recently elected president, Jacob Zuma, had only heard of English sides, Real Madrid and Italian teams. Gwala “talked enthusiastically about the standard of football in the USSR,” Korr and Close write, “about great footballers in Hungary, Poland, and elsewhere, not just in the West.”

The big world of football will not travel west or east but south in one year’s time. That much is certain.

About the trip

The tour of Cape Town and Johannesburg was arranged by the International Marketing Council of South Africa.

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