Archive for the 'South Africa' Category

Dec 08 2013

Profile Image of Vinay Kumar

Que ferons-nous avec les stades après la Coupe de Monde?

Le post de Becca sur les stades au Brésil me fait rappeler du mon voyage à l’Afrique du Sud et du grand problème dont les grands stades de la Coupe de Monde posent aux pays organisateurs : que ferons-nous avec les stades après la Coupe de Monde ?

Dans l’été de 2011, j’ai habité à Durban, Afrique du Sud pendant trois mois avec DukeEngage (un programme sponsorisé par l’université). A Durban, j’ai travaillé avec des organisations non-gouvernementales qui aident des jeunes dans un quartier qui s’appelle Wentworth. Pendant la période que j’étais à Durban, j’ai appris beaucoup de la culture sportive et l’histoire du rugby et du football. J’ai parlé avec des jeunes et j’ai vu le contrecoup persistant du apartheid avec les populations qui jouent chaque sport. Selon les jeunes à Durban, le football reste comme le sport préféré par les Sud-Africains noirs et Sud-Africains de couleurs tant que les Sud-Africains blancs aiment le rugby. Néanmoins, tout le monde joue les deux sports dans une certaine mesure. Nous avons aidé à un camp d’entrainement gratuit pour le football à Durban et j’ai pu voir l’amour pour le football.


Le moment de mon voyage était très intéressant en particulier parce que c’était l’été après la Coupe de Monde- la première Coupe de Monde en Afrique ! Il était évident pendant notre voyage que l’économie et les gens d’Afrique du Sud souffraient des effets secondaires (« une guele de bois ») de la Coupe de Monde. Nous sommes allés au grand stade à Durban, Moses Mabhida. Le stade était vraiment incroyable avec un grand arc et une capacité de 62,760 places. Moses Mabhida a coûté $450 million et reste comme une attraction touristique après la Coupe de Monde. Nous avons marché sur le terrain et c’était vraiment un spectacle. De plus, nous avons pris le funiculaire au sommet du stade pour une vue sensationnelle.



Cependant, je n’ai pas compris comment le stade resterait ouvert parce qu’il n’a pas été utilisé souvent pour des événements après la Coupe de Monde (sauf le cricket). J’ai demandé aux habitants si Moses Mabhida est un avantage pour la communauté après la Coupe de Monde et s’il a crée du travail. Leurs réponses ne m’ont pas surpris parce qu’ils ont dit que le gouvernement a dépensé trop pour le stade et qu’il aurait pu avoir utilisé cet argent pour les programmes sociaux. En outre, Moses Mabhida n’est pas viable financièrement et il y a un déclin des touristes.

Nous pouvons apprendre de l’exemple de Moses Mabhida et les épreuves que le stade a fait face. J’espère que le gouvernement brésilien pense à long-terme avec ses stades et comment il peut les utiliser pour enrichir le pays.[1]

[1] J’ai pris toutes les photos dans ce post

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Feb 05 2013

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

A Moth for Mali

The Western-most tip of Africa seemed like as good a place as any to watch the Mali vs. South Africa quarter-final in the African Cup of Nations. On Saturday, I was at the Pointe des Almadies in Dakar, a tourist stop and hang-out with a beach carpeted with black stones and hand-holding couples. On offer there were grilled fish, birds, paintings made of butterfly wings, ham and cheese crepes and beer, Bob Marley renditions — and a tiny television tuned to the match. We stood packed behind a bar watching. Everyone, as usual, was both coach and expert tactician. “Mali is leaving way too much space for the South Africans – they are fast!” “Why can’t they hold the ball?” “Only Keita is worth anything.” Some went on offence: about the South African coach Gordon Igesund: “That white man needs to calm down! He’s going to be more tired than his players!”

“Who are you rooting for?” a man turned and asked me suddenly. “Mali!” “With everything that’s happening there they need it,” he tells me. “They’re our neighbors,” another adds. We all turn back to the screen in time to see South Africa slip through the saggy Mali defense and score. Generalized hissing. “They’re going to get crushed. Crushed,” a man declares. For a while I think he’s right. But then: Keita, angling his header down for the bounce just enough to pass over the falling goalie. Stabilizing the boat.

I was in Dakar at the CODESRIA conference Afrika’Nko. Mali was on everyone’s mind. The conference was originally to take place in Bamako, but moved to Dakar because of the conflict there. Much of one afternoon was consumed by a heated debate about a statement condemning the recent burning of ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu. The signs of the intervention were visible in city, too. Wandering through the crowded center of town, I fell in behind a group of uniformed French soldiers winding their way along the street. From the sidewalk a man said to them: “Vive la France!” The soldiers looked back a little cautiously, not totally sure whether the statement was sarcastic or not. But the man seemed quite sincere, and the soldiers nodded.

During the Cup of Nations games, life in Dakar didn’t exactly stop. But it did proceed to a single soundtrack. On the upper floors of a cloth market and factory, the shops each had a small TV turned to the games. I sat in one for a while where, fed up with the French language commentary from the TV, a young man muted the volume and then cranked up the radio commentary from Dakar. In rooms nearby where men worked at sewing machines, the radio blasted the game, and there was enough time for them to dash over to a TV to see replays if something big happened. On the street, a man wandered out into an intersection, slightly oblivious, holding his phone to his head – listening to the streaming radio of the match. And each of Dakar’s often beat-up yellow taxis that drove by had the same soundtrack.

When much of a city and much of a continent is watching something, you can almost feel the collective shifting of moods. There was that moment of seeping dread, late in the second-half game of Mali vs. South Africa with the score skill locked 1-1, when everyone realized that overtime was coming, and after that, most likely, penalty kicks. But Mali’s players, and goalie, controlled the shoot-out from the beginning. Each of them went in, it seems, knowing that if there was a moment to proceed without fear and with hesitation, this was it. Gracefully, they dispatched South Africa without even needing to shoot the full five shots. The cheers were immediate and uproarious: “Mali!”

I was so deep into the African Cup of Nations that, when I returned on Monday to the U.S. and someone asked me whether I’d seen the game last night I said enthusiastically, “Yes!” But I thought they meant the Burkina Faso vs. Togo quarter-final — not the Super Bowl, which I had forgotten was even happening, and whose unfolding had barely registered in Senegal. I quickly learned the essential take-away from that event — the Beyoncé is totally fabulous — but realized that those who, here, found Burkina’s progress into the semi-final a notable historical event would be few and far between.

Tomorrow Mali goes on to face Nigeria in what is sure to be a difficult match. After last year’s amazing and emotional victory by Zambia, though, anything seems possible. And a victory for Mali in the midst of the war in the country would be a meaningful one. The conflict there has created, both within the country and among those watching and worrying from Senegal and other parts of the region, a powerful sense of dissonance and fragmentation. History is bearing down on the present: the long and complex history of Islam in West Africa, of the relationship between the desert regions of countries like Mali and the more populated cities, and of course of the history of French colonialism and neo-colonialism and the ambiguity of a population largely celebrating an intervention by France.

That there is a place, on the pitch, where “Mali” seems relatively straightforward – 11 players with one goal, though also with an infinite number of ways to reach it – is perhaps a kind of comfort. And so to is the idea that, at times like this, the game has a chance to be more than itself. At one point in the game, the one woman in the bar where I was watching pointed in surprise and wonder – above the ball, in a slow-motion close-up, you could just barely see a moth fluttering its wings.

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Nov 20 2010

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

World Cup Debriefing Featuring Achille Mbembe

Filed under South Africa,World Cup

The video for the World Cup Debriefing we held here at Duke a few weeks ago is now available here. Achille’s reflections on the meaning of the event for South Africa (the second presentation) are excellent. I’d welcome your thoughts and reactions!

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Nov 17 2010

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

Karim! Redux: France 2, England 1

An irruption of football into an otherwise glum Wednesday afternoon: what could be better?

Even better since it delivered a nice showing today by the French team, to my relief. And in Wembley no less. Between the two teams, France is clearly limping out of the hospital a little more quickly, it seems. Though it must have been a stressful afternoon for Arsene Wenger, as Liz Hottel pointed out.

What is so pleasing about this is that they not only pass the ball around nicely and set up good plays, but the result is actually, with some frequency, the scoring of goals, rather than a perpetual string of near misses. They seem at ease on the pitch, able to build up, with a certain understanding. It’s like watching a real football team! The first goal here by Benzema was inspiring.

Meanwhile, nice to see the U.S. do well against South Africa, and nice too to see the Cape Town Stadium — where I spent a delicious evening watching Holland-Uruguay this past World Cup — being used for the event, a fund-raiser for the Mandela Children’s Fund. Peter Alegi provided this nice preview of the match-up, and of U.S. soccer more broadly, from his perch in Cape Town, and a nice report from the game. I also recommend his excellent dispatches of the recent African Women’s World Cup, also played in South Africa in recent weeks, culminating in a victory for Nigeria.

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Aug 23 2010

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

World Cup Memories

Filed under South Africa,World Cup

Wayne Norman has posted a nice collection of quotes looking back at the 2010 World Cup and it’s impact here at his blog, This Sporting Life — and I’m not just saying that because he quotes me…

If anyone has seen other interesting reflections on the event please share them!

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Jul 18 2010

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

This Time for South Africa

Marcus Gilroy-Ware, who I went to several games with in South Africa, has produced this interesting short video about South African perspectives on the recent World Cup, featuring Achille Mbembe and Sarah Nutall (Visiting Professors at Duke this coming fall) among others.

I also published a set of final reflections on the World Cup, with Achille Mbembe, in French at Mediapart. Achille and I were guests on “The People’s Game” radio show at KPFK as the World Cup was winding down as well.

You can read Edouardo Galeano’s engaging reflections on the 2010 World Cup here.

But perhaps the most significant impact for me of this World Cup is that, on returning home, I downloaded the Shakira World Cup theme song and now am actually listening to it with pleasure in a state of rapturous and insane nostalgia.

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Jul 14 2010

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois


Two days after the World Cup final, the whole event seems slightly surreal. I’m returning from South Africa today, having survived on my last day here a gauntlet of baboons and a march up a gorgeous mountain, after arriving on the 26th of June just in time to see Ghana beat the U.S. I’ve had the privilege of watching seven games, including the Cape Town semi-final and the final in Johannesburg. I’ve come to know and love the vuvuzela — and, yes, I’m bringing one home to blow at Duke soccer matches this fall. It was rapture on many levels, and now it’s passed.

Critics of the World Cup and the enthusiasm it inspires often insist on the fact that for all the talk of football creating understanding, toleration, and communication, this global tournament is ultimately a brief moment, even a fantasy, with little broader impact on structures of oppression and domination. They point out the ways in which the tournament actually reproduces those structures in many ways. All of this is right, to a point, and yet misses the point as well. For the World Cup is what it is precisely because it is slightly out of time, and out of place in the world.

As I arrived at the final I saw all around me the same expression I was wearing: a slightly dazed, blissful grin that said simply “I can’t believe I’m here.”

The last game was both frustrating and riveting. I went into it already partial to the Spanish team, whose play had elated me when I saw the Spain-Paraguay game in the stadium and during the Spain-Germany game a few days later, which I watched in a seaside restaurant on the Cape peninsula. But I appreciated Holland too, for the Uruguay-Holland game in the Cape was an amazing game, flowing and performative, fascinating and strangely calming to watch live. My sympathy for the Dutch evaporated rapidly, though, during the final. They had clearly decided – the coach basically admitted as much – that they were not as good as the Spanish, and that they had to play a kind of anti-football, using physical confrontations and fouling as a tool of the trade.

In a sense you can understand this, and yet it was probably the wrong choice. Had they done otherwise, they might have come even less close to winning, but they also could have left a very different mark with their final appearance. To see both teams playing all out in the flowing way they are capable of would have been a massive gift to all of us. Instead, we were pissed off for most of the match. Fans booed the referee, and there was and is widespread complaining about him, but in a sense he was put in a relatively impossible situation by the play itself. As the game slipped through overtime, I couldn’t believe we were about to live what to me was the ultimate nightmare: a final between two great, unique teams, determined by penalty kicks. Then: Iniesta arrived, saint and savior. Along with much of the stadium, I exploded at that goal, hitting the seat, jumping up and down, screaming to heaven. It was an astounding finish.

Here’s a few moments from the final you might have missed, as I’m not sure they showed up on TV. First, when Sepp Blatter came onto the field, he was roundly booed by much of the stadium. It was interesting and little mysterious. There are certainly many reasons to boo FIFA, and yet we were also all there to watch the show he had put on.

It’s true that many of has just spent nearly an hour in lines waiting for food only to find out that it had ran out, thanks to FIFA’s idiotic insistence at having only it’s own franchise sell a tiny menu of bad food, rather than allowing local vendors who would have supplied us (as they did outside the stadium) with delicious grilled meats, rice, and a panoply of other foods. Instead, I got – seriously – a hotdog (hallal lamb, its true) without a bun in a paper bag. Happily, though, everyone was so psyched to be there that our wait in line turned into a jovial exchange about where we were from, the World Cup, South Africa, and the absurdity of our situation. (Conversations in the packed men’s bathrooms were similarly jovial.) Maybe the boos came from hunger? They were repeated at the time of the presentation of the trophy, loudly. The referee was also booed, which I found a little appalling actually. Booing Blatter seemed fine to me, and yet its motivations still puzzle me a little.

The other moment that I don’t think was broadcast was a nearly-successful attempt by a streaker to actually get to the World Cup as it sat on display before the game. He came bursting onto the field, trailed by several guards, and as he approached the Cup he pulled something out of his pocket. I thought at the time it was a bag, as if he was planning to stick the trophy in a little bag… and go where, exactly? But someone later gave me a better explanation for the prank: he had a little red velvet hat that he wanted to put on the Cup so that, just for a moment, it could be wearing what a little Spanish hat: he wanted, effectively, to claim the Cup for Spain proactively.  He almost did it too except that one of the officials in a suit stepped in front of the Cup and gave a nice block which sent him sprawling on the ground. Later, when the Spanish ran around the field with the trophy, another man also tried to get to the Cup. My recommendation to both would have been to do what I and many other tourists did: buy a nice replica of the cup, made out of beads and wires by South African artisans, for a reasonable 200 Rand.

Watching the scenes of elation on the field after the game was spell-binding. I knew that this was a massive moment for Spain, for its history of regional conflict, for its construction as a nation. There’s a book to be written about that – perhaps our contributor Joaquin Bueno will be the one who writes it – and about the theatre on the field, during which Puyol and Xavi paraded with a Catalan flag in the midst of the celebration of Spanish victory. There was also something gut-wrenching about watching the Spanish receive the trophy while the Dutch team sprawled and wandered in desperation at hearing the words no football team ever wants to hear: “runner-up.” Van Brockhorst, whose amazing semi-final goal against Uruguay was along with Tshabala’s first goal probably the best of the tournament, looked particularly dejected.

Then we all hobbled home, through the Johannesburg night, and woke up in a totally different world.

In South Africa, the last few days have seen an outpouring of discussion of precisely what the legacy of all of this is. For at least four years, even more, the country has prepared to host an event that lasted a month. Now that event is over, and the question is what, precisely, it actually was, and what it did. It was, by all accounts, a huge success, indeed a vindication. The many fears recycled especially in the European media for years evaporated. Instead visitors had an incredible experience overall. Even the fans behaved: indeed, last night on the news a British official even boasted that not a single English fan had been arrested for bad behavior – a miracle of sorts!

To make that happen took a massive effort, of course, and also some juridical innovations. South Africa set up special “World Cup” courts with rapid sentencing for any who committed crimes during the tournament, a unique “state of exception” that apparently the Brazilians are already interested in learning about from the South Africans in preparation for 2014. But there was also a massive campaign whose message to South African citizens was that they were essentially all responsible for making the Cup a success. Throughout the tournament, as crime rates remained low, people joked constantly that the criminals turned out to be patriots too, politely putting off their activities while the eyes of the world were on South Africa.

Today, however, one of the major stories in South Africa surrounds rumors that, now that the World Cup is over, there will be attacks against immigrants from outside Africa in the country, as there were in 2008. Many are already fleeing the country, while the police force is mobilizing to respond to such attacks. A few acts of looting of foreign-owned stores have already taken place. But it’s not clear precisely whether the rumors reflect reality or, as is so often the case, are in the process of creating it. On the news last night, some township residents lamented the departure of foreigners, who own many convenience stores that are now shuttered, making it more difficult and expensive for residents to get food. This crisis will be a major test: if communities, and the nation as a whole, can protect foreign residents and prevent violence, it will suggest that something has indeed changed.

The structures built for the World Cup meanwhile, most importantly public transportation systems that were long-needed but never completed, will present another test. If they can be maintained as safe and efficient transportation, that will be one immediate, and daily, legacy from the World Cup in South Africa.

What, meanwhile, do all those who watched games, near and far, take from this. That is the toughest question to answer. We disperse, individually carrying this massive collective experience. We’ve glimpsed an alternative space, one composed of people from all over sharing a common story, full of absurdities and twists and turns, random and even futile but yet perfect because it is common. We’ve come like pilgrims looking for something, but perhaps return not precisely sure what we’ve found.

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Jul 08 2010

Profile Image of Joaquin Bueno

The Daily Show’s Take on the Social and Political Import of the World Cup

Video: World Cup 2010: Into Africa – Goal Diggers | The Daily Show | Comedy Central

A brilliant piece on the “First African World Cup!”

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Jul 03 2010

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

Why We Love the Vuvuzela

With apologies to my many vuvuzela-hating friends, here’s an essay (in French) written by Achille Mbembe and myself on experiencing the vuvuzela in South Africa.

An English translation is available here.

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Jun 28 2010

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

Maradona Makes Me Happy

I’m here in South Africa, and last night went to the see the Argentina-Mexico game at Soccer City. I’ll warn you that a portion of this post will sound a bit like FIFA propaganda, so if you can’t stand that please stop reading now. But the feeling here in electric and ebullient, and I really can’t imagine any other event that could produce the same thing. I felt happily overwhelmed at the scene last night.

I was welcomed by Achille Mbembe and Sarah Nutall, who are hosting a kind of wandering seminar on the World Cup at there home these weeks — yesterday I watched the England-Germany game with Joseph-Antoine Bell, legendary Cameroonian goal-keeper (more on that later!). You can see Achille’s mean vuvuzela skills (and his excellent hat) below.

Achille Mbembe blowing the Vuvuzela before the Mexico-Argentina Game.

On the double-decker bus in from the Park and Ride to the stadium we met a seven-year-old South African boy and his father. They were heading to their sixth game, and the kid looked determined and cool as he headed into a long night. The father was yawning. The next day, they were headed to Durban. As a simple answer to all the questions and cost-benefit analyses of whether the World Cup is good or bad for South Africa, there was this. He would clearly remember these weeks forever. He would in all likelihood never been able to see this – the tens of thousands of people and tongues, Messi on the field – if the Cup had not come to South Africa.

I also discovered happily (and this sounds less like FIFA propaganda) that local merchants had managed to push back successfully, and in some ways outwit, FIFA. There was much talk before the tournament about the fact that FIFA would not allow any kind of merchandizing, that they had trademarked pretty much anything you could sell – the words “South African 2010,” the word “World Cup.” What they weren’t able to do was trademark nations or their flags, or the all important vuvuzelas. The merchants also kindly offered earplugs for sale. Along the several kilometer walk from the bus stop to the stadium, there were hundreds of merchants selling all of these, doing brisk business as people transformed themselves into Argentina or Mexico fans for the night, and stocked up on those vuvuzelas. They were, to all appearances, doing much better than the super-overpriced official stores set up within the stadium complex.

Before I left the U.S. someone told me the NCAA – seeming fearing an influx of them in the hands of World Cup visitors from the U.S. – has already taken care to announce that these instruments would not be allowed in collegiate games next year. But, at the risk of generating more ire than I could by making fun of Lionel Messi, I’m going to admit it: I like the vuvuzela. On the walk in, they were a constant call and response within the crowd, part of the march. And in the stadium they are wonderful, modulating with what is going on the field, creating intricate games of sound between different parts of the stadium. This doesn’t communicate on television, of course, but I immediately got the attraction. And watching an eclectic mix of fans from throughout the world blowing into their just-bought vuvuzelas – with mixed success, for they are hard to blow, as I discovered when my first several tries created a pathetic little creak – is excellent.


And so, of course, were Argentina. When I got to my seat a friendly Irishman draped in his flag asked if I would swap seats with his buddy a few rows down so they could sit together. I accepted, figuring it was a sort of penance for being a fan of Thierry Henry and the French team who had made it so they could support theirs at the World Cup. As a result I got to watch the match next to a hilarious chain-smoking sixty-year-old Argentinian from Rosario, who let out of string of absolutely harsh and totally unprintable insults at his team for basically the entire ninety minutes. (On my right, meanwhile, was a totally silent, long-haired Japanese man wearing a hood and glasses, who erupted into nods and cheers with each goal).

Yes, my Argentinian friend smiled a little when they scored one after another. But, he complained, they really weren’t playing well on defense, as he kept pointing out helpfully to them each time they flubbed their positions against the Mexican team. He wasn’t allowed to smoke in the stadium, I knew as he bathed me in second-hand smoke, but it was clear the guy needed his cigarettes. An Australian in front of us told him he couldn’t smoke, but the man with impeccable logic pointed to sky, telling him “We’re outside, what’s the big deal?” Eventually he was repressed by the local authorities, who wanted to actually take his cigarette away but were satisfied when he smashed it on the ground. He proceed to eat pungent cough-drops for the rest of the match. Still, he seemed pleased – a little — when I told him I thought his team would probably win the Cup. “We’ll beat Germany,” he said, “and I’m not worried about Brazil. It’s Spain I’m worried about.”

Is it wrong, somehow, that I could be filled with delight by Argentina while this man, clearly an intense lifelong fan, lived the whole night as a stressful experience? To each fan their form of obsession, I suppose.

The Mexican fans were beautifully decked out and spirited last night, but of course rapidly turned gloomy. The South African security guards had the unenviable job of dealing with various tussles between a tightly packed group of intertwined Mexico and Argentina fans, both after Argentina’s third goal and at the end of the match. A bit of beer was thrown at one unfortunate policeman, who was impeccably controlled about the whole thing. Then – here comes the FIFA propaganda, or else one of those World Cup commercials – some Mexico fans waded into the Argentinian side of the stand-off and began waving flags and jumping up and down, patting the enemy fans on the back, and the action seemed to calm everything down.

The common response to Maradona, of course, (at least in the Anglophone world) seems to be a bit of embarrassment at his “antics.” You can pick your reason why he’s a bit unseemly: the “hand of God”; the cocaine addiction and alcoholism, insulting journalists, FIFA, Pelé (telling the legend to “go back to the museum”!), Platini; that he has not just a Che Guevara tattoo (nothing special there) but a Fidel Castro one too; and so on. But Maradona makes me happy. When he jumps around in his hilariously dignified grey suit on the sidelines as he team scores one goal after another, he makes me happy. He makes me happy when he insults FIFA, who since they control the world at this point need at least some token opposition, and he’s the perfect one to issue it since for many in the world he literally incarnates the joy and madness of football they seek to trademark for themselves.

I like him because the one glimmer of interest my seven-year-old son showed in the World Cup came when I pointed to Maradona and told him that he had declared that if he won the competition he would run naked through the streets of Buenos Aires. Many Argentinians, I assured my son, would join him. That, it seemed, was finally a good reason to root for one team over another.

But most of all, Maradona makes me happy because he has coached a team whose philosophy is to score more goals than the other team, rather than to prevent the other team from scoring. Last night they may have not been so good defensively, as my chain-smoking friend told me. But they scored the goals on the other end, lots of them, cheeky and stunning.

Maradona makes me happy because given how crazy this whole thing – the World Cup, and the world for which it is the cup – really is, he seems to me to make the most sense within it. The World Cup, above all, is a test of mental control, and soul, for any team. It seems to me that having Maradona on the sidelines lights up his team, gives them the mad confidence, the headlong rush, that they need. Many teams in this World Cup have had incredible rosters but seemed strangely fragile on the pitch. (I’m politely avoiding any direct mention of that earlier game yesterday, since the sight of various English fans last night, some literally walking around alone muttering to themselves with red eyes, was too much to bear, but that’s of course exhibit A.) The Argentina team doesn’t. They seem like they know they should be there, they know what to do, and they are going to do it. Or so it seems now.

Tonight, Brazil-Chile. I’m looking forward to the vuvuzela-samba mix.

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