I don’t like rugby. In fact, I kinda hate it. I also don’t like salt and vinegar crisps, Smarties or puffer jackets, what can I say? I have some unpopular opinions. But wait. Before you curse me and throw your phone or laptop across the room, what I want to say is that even I am super stoked that our team won. I haven’t watched any of the World Cup games. I actively avoided them. On Saturday morning when practically the whole of SA sat down to watch the final I went out for waffles with a friend, (WAFFLES!) we were the only ones in the restaurant (it didn’t have a TV). Earlier when I told my boyfriend that I’m not going to watch the final, he looked so disappointed in me that I promised to come to meet him after the waffles. He was watching in a small bar in Woodstock with some of our friends. I arrived just in time for the last ten minutes of the game. The small crowd mostly in green and gold was a pretty good cross-section of South Africans, including a cute little dog sitting on its human’s lap. Everyone and the dog was beaming. When the camera cut to the trophy getting engraved, we erupted in cheers. I got gooseflesh and got all emotional. The room radiated goodwill. At that moment, we got to feel something we don’t get to feel too often. Proud and happy to be South African.
Our country is troubled, always has been. I grew up in the apartheid era, and the sh*tty legacy of that is still very apparent today. In Cape Town, there is a beggar at pretty much every robot (traffic lights for the non-Saffers) Our economy is either bad or really, really bad. I walk around with pepper spray, because I’m a child-sized woman/easy target and violent crime is a genuine concern. Being South African is stressful. This year especially there has been a lot of talk about immigrating. Friends and family have moved or is considering moving to safer places and better economies. But when the final whistle blew, all of that fell magically away. We were South African, and our team won, and everyone else can suck it. For the rest of the day, people smiled goofily at each other, hugging and high-fiving friends and strangers. There was a real sense of unity and pride. It kinda made me wish I were into rugby. But I’m just not, and this hasn’t changed that, but I am into the post-victory vibes. If only somehow we can hang on to this feeling. For me, it was a great reminder that, even with all its faults and problems, I love my country. It’s home. It’s part of my identity. It’s a bit like that family member that drives you nuts, but you love anyway because they’re family. It took a bunch of grown men chasing a small oddly shaped ball around to remind me of that. Thanks guys. I’m still beaming.