The headlines in the RSA read the same old dismal news. World Cup too expensive. No way to recoup investment. World Cup over capitalised. And more in that vein
I read this as I prepared for a journey across 5 continents in 5 weeks flying in and out of Jhb and at times being out during parts of the World Cup, much to my disappointment.
I had accepted all of these stories at face value until I started with my first flight to Uganda. There I discovered that our African brethren were so proud of us for bringing the World Cup here. They were praying for our success in hosting it (if not always rooting for our great unifying soccer team).
The excitement was palpable and people were clearly seeing us as leading members of the community of Africa. This fabulous continent with almost a billion people is perhaps more critical to our future well being in terms of personal perceptions than the rest of the world
It struck me then that the PR on South Africa outside the country was hugely positive and actually, you cannot buy a positive spin like that. In the RSA we complain about the cost of this World Cup yet the world now sees us a positive and happy place to visit and do business with!
Am amazing dichotomy!
Shortly after that I was in India and was amazed by the extremely great and positive reporting happening on our country. From airports and highway upgrades to the amazing stadiums that have become status symbols on our own continent. The Indians were clearly impressed with our rapid progress as a unified nation and welcomed us as fellow serious fast growing emerging market players
I flew via Dubai and the airport was blazoned with images of our country and brand “South Africa” had become sexy and exciting in my mind. A transformation of amazing importance was taking place in the collective consciousness of the travellers around me. I often sensed envy in my fellow travellers when they heard were I was from and more importantly where I was returning to
I was then in Brazil where South Africa was emblazoned everywhere from bill boards and airports to newspapers and tv ads in the soccer crazy nation. Even the domestic airline had this amazing one hour video which they played on how well we and Africa had done in preparing for this event. Always positive and promoting our country in the most positive way that I’ve ever seen. Socially redeeming, nationally relevant and inspirational was my summary
I flew back with SAA and was quite moved to hear our pilots try to talk about soccer over the intercom and in Portuguese to a resounding applause from the Brazilian soccer fans on the plane
By now my chest was bursting with pride at my country, my team, my nation and my continent
The trip to the USA, a country where soccer is not the most publicised sport, was the most amazing of all. Everywhere that I went I was asked why I was out of my country at this amazing time, the BBC even interviewed me on this point.
I lost count of the number of times that I saw the words South Africa in the USA from the east to the west coast. From mobile tv vans at Central Park to pubs in San Francisco and even in the sports section of USA papers that grudgingly referred to this event.
Espn coverage was amazing as were the ads and they all painted South Africa as a nation that was now a first world country and hosting one of the best World Cups ever. Praise was heaped on the country from our fans and the united population for the fact that our team had done well given their ranking prior to the event .
The dreaded and much cursed vuvuzela was now becoming an American icon as I noted from fans at the airport returning to the USA at JFK proudly wearing bafana bafana shirts ( a USA fashion accessory now in its own right – I think that it’s now the unoffical World Cup shirt world wide). I lost count of the numbers of those instruments that I saw there. What really knocked me flat was when I found a group blowing them in union square in San Francisco.
The top of the pile belongs to the story of a baseball team handing out 15000 of these items to their hands before a game to totally scare the living daylights out of their opponents!
The world of sports noise will never be the same again!
I returned humbled by what we have accomplished as a nation.
Now I’m a senior executive who is hard nosed and has been so for 30 years but I was very moved by all of this. So much so that I thought that I would share this with as many South Africans as possible
South Africans: Be proud, stand tall, hold your head high.
You have every reason to be very proud of yourself and we have honoured the great Madiba in the best way possible.
There are a lot of issues in our country but when I see this I dare to dream. I see a nation that has high ambitions and hope and punches outside of its weight limit. A nation unified to show the world what it can do. A nation!!! Wow, that alone is enough!
So smile, my beloved country! You have done well. Ke Nako!”
Written by Hemmanth Singh
CEO: Beyond Payments