In today’s blog, Fellow Bryan Franklin reflects on an emotional game at Moses Mabhida Stadium this past weekend.
The news swept across South Africa as violently as the Durban wind in October. On 25 October 2014, Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana’s (SA’s national soccer team) goalkeeper and captain was shot and later died after a robbery of his girlfriend’s house.
This wasn’t supposed to be how the story ended. Like so many kids PPI works with, Senzo Meyiwa grew up in Umlazi. While in Secondary School his coach at the time scraped enough money together to take him and a few teammates up to the Orlando Pirates Youth Academy tryout. Meyiwa immediately impressed and went on to play for the club at the junior level, the U-17 National team and made his debut for the senior level Pirates team in 2006. Up until this point , Meyiwa had lead Bafana Bafana to a first place ranking in its AfCon qualifying group, having yet to surrender a goal.
This past Saturday, three weeks after their captain and goalkeeper had passed away, Bafana Bafana took to the field with a chance to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time since 2008. In honour of their late captain, the match was moved to Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
From the moment I entered the stadium, the emotion and intensity hit me. Posters had been made to honour their fallen leader, and in an experience unlike any other I had been a part of, the stadium joined together for South Africa’s National Anthem. The Anthem in itself has special meaning to the rainbow country. Adopted in 1997, South Africa’s National Anthem employ the five mostly widely spoken of SA’s eleven official languages—Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans, and English. It’s a beautiful representation of a country made up of different backgrounds coming together as one.
A moment of silence followed the anthem. It was to be the last silence of the afternoon, as right from the beginning, Bafana Bafana jumped all over its Sudanese opponent, scoring twice in the first half. Sudan came out strong following the break, threatening multiple times before finally bringing the spread back to one goal with 20 minutes to play. Bafana Bafana’s defense held strong however, and the final whistle blew with a score of South Africa 2 – 1 Sudan.
As the stadium erupted in cheer and the jumbotron flashed: “congratulations South Africa, qualified for the Afcon for the first time since 2008”, there was no question who this victory was for. The game, and the afternoon were another example of a now famous quote made by Nelson Mandela at the Laureus Sport for Good Awards:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”