The World Cup: Opening hearts in South Africa?

Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

The World Cup in South Africa is the talk of the town, all over the world I am sure. A walker friend at Trou-0-Cerfs asked me to write about it, and made some suggestions. I told him that I can only ever write about something which touches me deeply, and football – and any other sport for that matter — doesn’t do so. As a kid I played all the games that we used to enjoy in my days: marbles, boule casse-cote, lamarel, laryaz, sapsiwaye, and also football in the la plaine: one was available in practically every locality.

We were a bunch of cousins, boys and girls, who used to kick the ball barefoot in the makeshift playground next to our house, where the grass grew wild and the blades were tall enough that our feet got caught in them so often, the ball got lost somewhere and we had to fish for it! Once I kicked at what looked like the ball – and next thing I saw was a bright red liquid oozing out of my inner heel, followed by pain. I was stopped in my track by the sharp stone which I had hit, hidden in the grass. The ‘match’ was cancelled forthwith, and I was rushed home to my father.

There was no question of going to the dispensary or hospital, where would one find the transport at this late hour in the evening? I remember the scene: here I was, my foot up for inspection. There a big gash and a flap of skin that had been ripped open, exposing what looked to me like a big – more than an inch I thought – gaping hole full of red.

My father did not panic – he had been in the army and maybe he was used to the sight of worse wounds and more blood. Coolly, he got some warm water in which he had put some dettol drops – there was always a bottle of dettol, an antiseptic which smelt rather pleasant I must say — in the house. Patiently, he soaked a piece of cotton wool in the solution, and gently wiped around the wound and then over it a few times. In the meantime some la resine was ground into powder, which he then applied liberally to the wound, and then closed it over with the flap of skin that hanged out like a lid, followed by the application of a bandage.

Several days later when this was opened, the wound was sealed and well on the way to healing. Today there is not even a scar to show! That and so many other episodes were my introduction to homemade first-aid and medical treatment, which I am sure would horrify those who read about this today and have never known those times!

I did participate in some non-competitive sports and athletic activities at the Royal College Curepipe, and as a boy scout I went camping and mountain-climbing, walked in the woods and so on. However, by the time I had reached Form V, it was all over for me as sports was concerned: my sports became focused more and more on the mental kind, and this has now become a lifetime occupation along, it goes without saying, the lifeline at Trou-0-Cerfs.

So to come back to the World Cup: I am not watching any game, but get daily news by listening to the conversations amongst my friends at the crater. I learnt about the misbehaviour of the French team, and how President Sarkozy is returning them in economy class! I know about football hooliganism for having spent time in the UK, and I watched the friendly match between AC Milan and Man-U at the Giants in New York some years ago. Off and on, and in loving company, I do enjoy watching interesting matches, but to be glued to the TV and that too late at night: nyet!

There are some nice lines circulating on the internet about the World Cup, written by most likely a South African, and which have been sent to me by a couple of friends. I think that that’s the best that will come out of this World Cup for South Africa, and is worth sharing. So here goes:


It does not matter that we did not qualify

What matters is our team inspired us all

What matters is they gave us hope

It does not matter that we were alone

Because we are now together

What started as a game is becoming something more

What matters is that we are creating the jobs, the skills, the infrastructure

And our common future



It does not matter that we did not qualify

What matters is that we hosted the best World Cup ever

Let’s not stop now

We have opened our hearts to each other

Let’s open them to the world

Starting now:

Choose another country to support

Paint your face for that team

Fill the fan parks

Help a tourist

Say hello to new people

Fly the flags higher

And be proud of our country

This is our chance, let’s keep going

Ke nako!



Great message! Hello, and let’s open our hearts!

Ke nako!


* Published in print edition on 25 June 2010

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