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Enraged Eyes Turn From Soccer to Eskom June 13, 2010

Posted by Afflatus in Energy, Sports and Entertainment.
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The biggest fans missed the biggest moment and it’s an absolute tragedy! 15 minutes into the second half of the opening match between South Africa and Mexico, the big screen T.V. in Orlando, Soweto went black and never turned back on. The 3,000 fans who had gathered to watch a defining moment in their country’s history (as big as their first democratic elections according to many) were justifiably upset. According to the local paper, The Times, the fans stuck around and then left hugely disappointed. I, for one, would have been livid! In fact I am angry right now. This is a disgrace and it never should have happened.

I was pretty  mad when I learned I would be in an airplane flying from Mozambique to Johannesburg during this same opening match. Thankfully, the flight was moved 3 hours earlier so I was able to watch to the game in the Johannesburg airport. To understand the tragedy of the Soweto blackout, the atmosphere in South Africa surrounding that first game must be witnessed firsthand. People were dancing and singing in ecstasy when South Africa scored the first goal of the cup. Seemingly everyone in the Joburg airport was showing South African colors. If it wasn’t a jersey or face paint, they had a Vuvuzela, the deafening horns blown at football (soccer) matches throughout this country. The sheer joy, which so many people felt during that game, and especially during Siphiwe Tshabalala’s goal, is what those watching (or attempting to watch) in Soweto missed.

As a football (soccer) fan, I would have been devastated if I had missed even one minute of my country’s game; missing the last 35 would outrage me! In South Africa, blacks form the main support base of Bafana Bafana, the country’s football (soccer) team, while whites generally prefer rugby. However, as an Afrikaner told me last night, “right now soccer is everyone’s favorite sport.” This Cup can (and should) be a unifying force for this historically divided country. From what I’ve witnessed, the Cup seems to already be having that unifying effect, a very inspirational observation. Hopefully it will have that same effect in Brazil in 4 years.

But the Cup can only be unifying if everyone is watching. Tickets to the games are generally too expensive for blacks living in Soweto, a township outside Johannesburg. Unable to attend the games in person, watching on T.V. is their only option. Eskom, the publicly-owned electricity provider in South Africa, must make sure that this option remains available.

Eskom has failed its people. Its spokesperson has apologized profusely, and said that this will never happen again. But this guarantee is meaningless – all they are promising is to do their job properly, something they should have done in the first place. What truly will never happen again is the moment. And the moment is gone. It has been missed by 3,000 Sowetans. And this is the utter tragedy.