Sarah-Leah Pimentel

And just like that, South Africa’s FIFA World Cup came to an end. A month of celebration, hard work, too much drinking, too little sleep, and copious amounts of adrenalin. That is the epitome of youth. Youth is a time for living life to the fullest and not thinking about the consequences. It is living an eternal now, a time of staying forever young.

All these years later, I look back on the World Cup as a magical time. The friends I had then have moved to other countries or cities. I have also moved on. Those easy connections and spontaneous activities are much harder now. Some of us have lost touch, and bonds have been broken that may never be fixed again.

Perhaps the world too has become a harder place. It is as if the underlying magic that formed an invisible layer on every part of life has dissipated.

Or perhaps the magic ended when Mandela died. His appearance at the final match of the World Cup became one of his last public appearances. He was already 92 at the time and quite frail. Three years later he was dead. The youthful optimism that our country could transform itself into a leader among nations died with him.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about Madiba Magic.

We were watching the World Cup Final in the same pub where Sausage Guy had met his match. I was there with Pauline, Dave, and others who lived in our commune. We were dressed up in the colours of our teams. Dave and I were wearing yellow and red to support the Spanish. The others donned the orange and blue of the Dutch flag.

The finale was prefaced by some Madiba magic. As Mandela arrived at Soccer City in Johannesburg and waved to the spectators, the crowds of patrons in the pub, to a man, rose to greet our struggle hero and man of peace. The spectators blasted their vuvuzelas and the applause roared across the stadium and onto all the television screens of the world. We felt that magic of possibility in the pub. Never mind soccer, this was our champion: the man who conquered a regime and his own demons, the man who started out as an armed fighter and became a peacemaker. He was the quintessential symbol of the resilience and transformation of the human spirit.

The bar was filled to capacity and the audience cheered when Madiba appeared. And then an almost religious hush came over the pub. For the next 120 minutes, only cheers and groans could be heard until Spain finally delivered the winning goal.

The pub exploded into cheering when Spain finally brought home the prize. The supporters embraced each other. Team colours and nationality no longer mattered. We all recognized that something was happening at a far deeper, more spiritual level. Although we came from different walks of life and cultures, we were united by a common love – the beautiful game.

Sport has this magical quality of uniting people. Madiba knew that. That is why he rallied a divided nation behind the Springboks at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Similarly, after the political turmoil of the opening years of the Zuma presidency (which would continue for the next decade), South Africans thirsted for the magic of unity as an antidote to the fear, anger, hatred and distrust that had set in.

For a moment, we were reminded that there is more that unites us than the things that divide us. We were able to holds our heads up high before the concert of nations and proudly proclaim that we had delivered a magical spectacle for the greatest show on earth.

But it was also more than that. It was a reminder that we can do better. The K’naan anthem of that World Cup “Wave your flag” encapsulated so much of what we desperately needed to remind ourselves:

When I get older I will be stronger

They’ll call me freedom just like a wavin’ flag

We were very young then. Democratic South Africa was only 16 years old. She was a child living in the euphoria of her newfound freedom. Everything was possible. Everything was achievable. Filled with the elixir of Madiba magic, we believed that everything would be alright in the end.

But the magic died. We did not live up to our youthful expectations. We failed to make our dreams come to life. “Hope springs eternal in every human breast,” wrote Alexander Pope. We have learnt the hard way that, unless nurtured, hope can wither.

Hope will die if it is fed on corruption, lies, dishonesty, lack of education, crippling poverty, poor health care, and the absence of prospects for the future. That is what the Zuma years did to us.

It took nine years for his party to finally oust him. Cyril Ramaphosa took his place but the long shadow of the Zuma years continues to threaten to reignite the cauldron of despair. When Ramaphosa took office, there was talk of a new dawn.

It has been slow in rising. What can one man do in the face of a deadly virus and a crippled economy? We are older now. We are wiser and more pessimistic. We know better than to believe in magic.

And yet…every time I hear our national anthem, I am moved, and the final verse stirs up something deep inside:

Sounds the call to come together,

And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.

Maybe some of that Madiba Magic will live on forever.

Series – Evanescent

January: If Something Can Go Wrong…It Will – Jonay Quintero Hernández (Spain)

February: The Planet of Pleasure – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

March: Evening with Jackie Chan – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

April: Vuvuzelas, Walkie-Talkies and Madiba Magic – Sarah-Leah Pimentel (South Africa)

May: Remembering – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

June: 5-4-3-2-1 – Talia Stotts (America)

July: Getting Ready for Newborns – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

August: Regrets – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

September: A Hollow Pursuit – Diana Haidar (Syria)

October: The Test – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

November: The Writer’s Daughter – Lauren Voaden (United Kingdom)

December: Translation Perfect – Zhang Lu (China)

Special: Catching Water III – Javier Gomez (Argentina)

Background – Context

Transadaptation Volume 2: Conceived – Childhood Transadapted, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2021)

Transadaptation Volume 1: In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world


Cover photo: Plettenberg Bay, South Africa – Setting – Thomas Bennie (Unsplash)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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