At this very moment, the best football players from all over the world are making their way to sunny South Africa to compete for the prize of all prizes. All eyes will turn to the Rainbow Nation to see if the numerous critics and doubters were right after all: They don’t believe the country is ready to host the greatest show on earth. Well, the time for words and debate is over, let the action begin and we’ll find out for ourselves!
Behind all the exciting games and magnificent stadia we will be seeing on our screens and the long hours we will be spending encouraging our team on to at least one more win, there is a fascinating country extending well beyond what will be shown.
Don’t worry, this is not a history class, nor a geography test about South Africa. It is just a quick introduction to some facts you may find interesting (like the fact that Kruger National Park is almost the same size as Holland). Hopefully what follows will help add context and flavour to a whole month of football and activities that will happen in Answers.
The Rainbow Nation
South Africans often describe themselves as the Rainbow Nation due to their wide ranging diversity in people and cultural groups. South Africa has a population of 45 million people speaking 11 official languages, with Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans being the most common home languages (English is the fifth most common home language, but is understood by most people as, primarily for economic and political reasons, it is the lingua franca).
The best known and biggest cultural group in South Africa is the Zulus. They proudly defend and practice their own traditions, and became a very important force against the British army in the late 19th Century.
Unusually, the country has three capital cities: Cape Town (Legislative), Pretoria (Administrative), and Bloemfontein (Judicial).
The South African flag as we know it today was adopted on Liberty Day, April 27th 1994 (during the first democratic elections after the abolishment of apartheid.
Sport in South Africa is almost a national religion! Children actively engage in all types of sport from a very young age and inevitably dream of emulating their heroes in football, rugby, cricket and just about every other sport you can think of.
Since the first democratic elections were celebrated in 1994, South Africa has hosted a variety of international sporting tournaments: The Rugby World cup in 1995 (which they won), Football’s African Cup of Nations in 1996 (which they won), and the Cricket World Cup in 2003. The country has also hosted auto racing’s A1 Grand Prix since 2006.
South Africa has always been a formidable competitor in Rugby Union. The national team, the Springboks, have won the Rugby World Cup on two occasions: 1995 and 2007.
Bafana Bafana (as the South African football team are known, meaning “The Boys”) have the hopes of a nation riding on their shoulders. The South African Football Association (SAFA) was banned from all international football events from 1974 till 1992, so winning the African Cup of Nations in 1996 was a significant triumph. Since then Bafana Bafana have proven somewhat inconsistent, slaying giants one moment and losing dismally to underdogs the next. So anything could happen in June/July 2010!
Famous South Africans
You may know of several other famous South Africans, but here we offer a small list of some of the names that have conquered the world, and you may be surprised by some of them:
J.R.R. Tolkien, writer and author of “Lord of the Rings”.
J.M. Coetzee, writer and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Nelson Mandela, revolutionary leader, first black president and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Charlize Theron, the first South African actress to win an Oscar.
Christian Barnard, the doctor who realised the first ever heart transplant.
Jody Sheckter, Formula 1 champion in 1979.
Gary Player, World Golf Hall of Famer and winner of 9 major tournaments
Desmond Tutu, Archbishop and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984
Hugh Masekela, Grammy Award nominated musician best known as a trumpeter
As we mentioned, this is just a small introduction to South Africa, and the beginning of a whole month of activities that we have prepared for the Answers Community around the FIFA World Cup. Stay tuned, and you will find yourself in the middle of a number of contests, activities and rewards that we’ve set up for you along the way.
“May the best team win!”
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