Okay, I'm not in South Africa, but a good friend of mine just got back from there last week. She went on a safari, climbed Table Mountain, attended the Honduras-Chile World Cup match, and got engaged (no blood diamonds for her). She even brought back some South African candy called Fizzies that kind of bubbles and foams in your mouth like sugary toothpaste.
I've wanted to go to South Africa since I was very young and first heard about this guy named Nelson Mandela and the ANC. I had a friend living in South Africa at the time, and he would send me airmail with pictures of the savannah and stories of the beautiful Bantu people he met. Writing my country report in sixth grade, I watched CNN as the racial tension mounted and held my breath for election results. It felt like I had a personal stake in that election: if Nelson Mandela didn't win, my report would be just another boring list of GDP and weather patterns. I was probably the only 13-year-old American who actually remembers watching the rugby game that inspired Invictus, long before Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman made it popular culture.
With the World Cup in full swing, it's kind of surreal to see that nation take center stage once again. I don't much care about soccer--who wins or losses--but a part of me really cares that these games go well. That people come away remembering South Africa as a country where good things happen. Yes, that nation has horrible crime statistics, and the unemployment rate is unbelievable, but don't we all need a little something to hold on to? Something that makes us proud and unique? Between these World Cup games and the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, it's about time we broaden our sports view and include the southern hemisphere in world-wide events.