Soccer in Soweto

Sometimes just saying yes brings you in the most extraordinary situations. It is a simple word, but can be so hard to say at times. I had just been in South Africa for a few days when the owner of the hostel asked if I wanted to join her for a football game. I didn’t know what to say, but had nothing better to do, so ended up saying yes. I thought we would go see some youth play, but boy was I wrong.

Group shot before the game

Group shot before the game

I set off with Mama Fefe, the hostel owner, and David, an American who worked there. We went to Mama Fefe’s favorite, the Kaizer Chiefs. We had to take a minibus to the city center, which gave me the strange sensation of being watched. In Johannesburg, you won’t see a white person taking a minibus. This is the transportation of the blacks, and without Mama Fefe, I would have never taken one.

The center of Joburg was a no-go area for a tourist like me. When we got off the bus it was very busy, but only black people were around. People were everywhere, many of them selling things at the side of the road. Mama Fefe took my arm in hers and told me to stay close. She pretty much dragged me across the crowded square. I have never felt so white. Little kids were following us, pointing and laughing at me, signaling their friends to come over and see this phenomenon.

Outside of a park we met Fefe’s friends, all dressed up in yellow. I was wearing one of her old football shirts, a rip off Kaizer Chief shirt. With a new group of people we entered another minivan. This one took us to the stadium in Soweto. There, Mama Fefe took my arm again and dragged me in between the football lovers. Football is the sport of the blacks here. White people play rugby or cricket. Apart from some photographers, David and I were the only white faces in the stadium.

I had some delicious food before the game started, although I really couldn’t tell you what exactly it was. There was a lot of time left before the game started and the South Africans spent this time dancing and watching the cheerleaders. In front of 5 chairs stood 7 people, all swinging their hips, so I really had no other option than to stop being ashamed of myself and just swing along. What a great feeling!

During the first half of the game a man came towards me. He told me to come with him. Everyone seemed to encourage me to go, so I reluctantly went. I got to sit on the grass, at the side line. Four other women joined me. At halftime we walked to the middle of the field and received a bag full of goodies because it was Woman’s Day. They were taking pictures of us and we met a seemingly important woman. Then we all got a camera onto our face and had to tell the interviewer why Woman’s Day is so important. I didn’t have a clue what that day was about, but managed to make up a story about how it’s important for the empowerment of women.

I felt a mixture of feelings. I felt really bad that they’d chosen me for this instead of all those other women in the stadium, women who’d save very hard to go to this game and are diehard fans of the club. And all of that because I was white. On the other hand I felt honored that they wanted to share this with me. All the people I came with, people who barely knew me, were very happy for me and genuinely enthusiastic about me being there.

Whatever the reason was for choosing me, I had a night I will never forget. I still remember the enthusiasm of the people, the happiness and the sense that everything was possible. I remember the kind people who took me among them even though they didn’t know me, and let me celebrate a great night with them. I realize that this is one of the once in a lifetime experiences and I am so happy I had to courage to say yes that night, a night to remember.

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  1. Pingback: Liebster | Pretty Packed

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