Monday 5 July 2010

World Cup Telly

One of the things I've enjoyed most about watching this World Cup has been the BBC's coverage which has included a number of interesting reports on South Africa.

They've reported all over the country, meeting different people and looking at how the World Cup is impacting on their lives and the country overall.

As well as these reports the BBC has shown some great social history documentaries about South Africa. The last one I watched looked at the Boer War which told the story of the Spion Kop, a term that most English football fans will be familiar with.

Two of my favourite films included one about Sir Stanley Matthews visiting South Africa during the 1960's and 70's to coach in the black townships.

I've always known who Stanley Matthews was, but I knew nothing about him coaching in South Africa. After watching the film I had a huge amount of respect for him as it took a lot of courage to visit the country during the years of Apartheid rule and coach in the townships.

Some of those people who he coached all those years ago were interviewed and still spoke with a great deal of fondness and affection for him and the efforts he made.

The second film I really enjoyed looked at an area in Cape Town known as District Six. Up until the late 1960's this was a mainly coloured area of the city.

In 1968 all of the non-white population were forcibly evicted from their homes and forced out of the city into some wasteland area known as the Cape flatlands. The district was re-developed as a designated 'whites only' area.

It was a poignant and emotional film that highlighted the cruelty and absurdity of the apartheid system.

When I watch such things, it reminds me that I actually grew up with apartheid still very much alive. It's hard to get your head around the idea that such a system could ever have existed. It's like something out of a nightmarish Science Fiction movie.

What I liked most about these short films is that you realise that although the World Cup is clearly a sporting event, the very fact it's being held in South Africa makes this a very different World Cup.

Up until 20 years ago South Africa was pariah state, shunned by the sporting world. For the country to be holding the World Cup at this moment still feels amazing.

The BBC films have given the tournament as sense of context and you appreciate the significance of the World Cup in South Africa when you realise what a troubled and unsavoury recent history the country has had.

There's been criticisms of course which shouldn't be ignored. But this has come about only because the issue of sport and politics are so closely linked in South Africa.

I think following the showing of the District Six documentary, they went back to the BBC studio with pundits Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer.

Hansen when talking about Apartheid went on to say:

"That system was obviously fundamentally flawed...but now they've got the World Cup,"

Well that's alright then!

He was rightly criticised for this but I quite like Hansen, so I'm not going to be too harsh on him on this one.

It was one of those awkward moments when a sports pundit suddenly realises they've stepped outside of their comfort zone and into dangerous political territory.

Rather then go any further and makes things worse, they quickly try and wrap things up, and inevitably make things worse.

Despite this little blip I'm not going to let it overshadow what I think has been excellent coverage by the BBC.

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