The coming of the World Cup to South Africa is not without controversy. Several weeks ago, for example, I spoke with a South African, a socially and environmentally-conscious Christian, who questions the wisdom of bringing the tournament to a country in which so many of its citizens live in abject poverty. Far from benefiting the poor, resources (e.g. electricity) used to host the tournament and later maintain infrastructure built specifically for it come directly at their expense.
That is one side of the issue. The other side is the pride that hosting an event of such magnitude can bring to the people of South Africa. Several weeks ago, as we walked through the streets of the township where we worship after church, a group of young men commented, "Is it the World Cup already?; we like to see you here!" This group of people, undoubtedly classified by outsiders as the poor, who indeed will not likely reap any material benefits from the tournament, nevertheless own the idea of hosting foreigners in their country. Perhaps the single greatest assurance of dignity for Africans--the essential characteristic of being human according to the Psalmist ("crowned with glory and honor") (Ps. 8)--is their capacity to host, to throw a party to which the world is invited.
Last week, while stopped at a red light, the voice of the young man driving the car beside mine came through my window: "feel it!" He spoke those words because he, a black man, and I, a white, were both wearing Bafana Bafana jerseys. We exchanged smiles and thumbs up. In the interest of doing my small part to support unity in a still deeply-divided society, Anna and I had decided to purchase one for my birthday. To me it is money well-spent.
So, yes, the international, corporate powers that put on the World Cup do not care for the poor. Perhaps they even impede the poor's actual ability to host the event. Yet we might ask whether our preoccupations with material considerations is the flip-side of a deficiency to appreciate as genuinely real those benefits which are invisible--or at least hidden from our eyes. That is a question.
Joe, Isaac, Levi, and Moses attempt to "feel it".