MMQB, World Cup Edition (cont.)
Make no mistake: The Great Mandela's watching. With the tragic death of his great-granddaughter at the hands of a drunk driver the night before the World Cup began, 91-year-old Nelson Mandela, who is by far the man most responsible for the tournament coming to Africa for the first time, has been totally out of public view. His grandson, Mandla Mandela, was at an event Thursday next to the U.S. friends and families hotel trying to sell prints to benefit a new high school for the Mvezo tribal area where Nelson Mandela was born. (Go to AfricaSalutesYou.com to see some of this neat art, and purchase if you wish.)
I asked the younger Mandela, who is the local chief of the Mvezo region, if his grandfather was following the soccer action.
"Oh, yes,'' he said with a smile. "But he is old now, and he needs his rest. He might watch the first few minutes of a game, and he gets a little bit excited, then he goes for a rest, and later, he will say to us, 'Who won the game? What happened?' He can't afford to get too excited these days, but he loves this World Cup. It was his dream for South Africa, and for Africa. It has been on my grandfather's agenda to use sport for nation-building, and I think he feels strongly that this is happening here right now.''
Mandla Mandela speaks in the same measured tones as his grandfather. I asked him what I've heard for nearly two weeks now around the country -- the same kind of anger and resentment toward foreigners that is building in some parts of our country with illegal immigrants. There are 3 million Zimbabweans, for instance, who have come flooding over the northern border into South Africa to find work and escape the oppressive regime in Zimbabwe. They're not alone. That's contributed to a 41 percent unemployment rate. Everywhere you drive, there are men on the side of the road, walking somewhere or standing, hoping that a passing motorist will offer a daily job painting a house or doing some other day work. I asked Mandela if he resented the influx of Africans taking jobs from South Africans.
"During the worst years of Apartheid,'' Mandla Mandela said, "Zimbabwe housed many of our people who were being oppressed. So did other countries in Africa. We ought to be striving to ensure that people be given the same kind of home that we were given when life was difficult for us. All the countries in the southern region [of Africa] played a major role in the fight against Apartheid. The people of Zimbabwe who are here, make no mistake about it -- they want to go home. We hope someday they have the chance to do so.''
My ranking of the top five teams in the 32-team World Cup after eight days of competition:
1. Brazil (1-0-0, 3 points). I laugh when everyone says how poorly the Brazilians played the other night. You can't look great if your opponent's packing it in, which North Korea was doing for 45 minutes.
2. Netherlands (1-0-0, 3 points). Looking more orange than the Tennessee Vols, their fans wear the colors everywhere. Saw six in orange jumpsuits at a lion park Thursday.
3. Argentina (2-0-0, 6 points). Leo Messi: 14 shots, zero goals in two games. But the Argentines have scored five goals with Messi helping set them up.
4. Uruguay (1-0-1, 4 points). Played wall-like D to tie France, then broke out to play colorful offense in obliterating South Africa.
5. Chile (1-0-0, 3 points). Edged Germany after getting its first World Cup win since 1962, 1-0 over Honduras. Other than Germany's rout of Australia, the Chile win might have been the most dominant performance of the first 16 games.
"I'm a little gutted to be honest. I don't know how they stole that last goal from us. ... I'm not sure what the call was. He (the referee) wouldn't tell us what the call was.''
--Landon Donovan, on the unexplained infraction called by ref Koman Coulibaly in the 2-2 draw with Slovenia
"At the end, I decided to aim high, and aim at his head. I don't think he wanted to get hit in the head.''
--Donovan, on his first goal, which he blasted at the head of the Slovenia goalkeeper from close range early in the second half
"I hope we don't see his face again in any game anymore.''
-- South Africa coach Carlos Parreira, on referee Massimo Busacca, who gave South African goalkeeper, Itumeleng Khune a red card late in the 3-0 loss to Uruguay.
Busacca's got quite a storied history. Reffing a game in Qatar last year, he relieved himself on the field because he said he couldn't hold it.
Couldn't you just see Ed Hochuli trying to explain that one to Roger Goodell?
According to Agence France-Presse, a hooligan Greek Orthodox Church man of the cloth, Priest Christos, was demoted and ordered to refrain from further "uncouth gatherings of supporters'' after video captured him in full robes of the church in the middle of a throng of team supporters yelling at an opposition team during a Greek professional game. His fellow fans were heard to be chanting, "The priest is a god!''