Off-side at the World Cup

Reposted from The Huffington Post

When the World Cup begins in South Africa on Friday, anyone who has ever kicked a ball will be able to follow along–soccer is elegant, straightforward and simple to understand. The Beautiful Game does, however, have a regulation that stops play, reverses the game and routinely baffles neophytes: the off-side rule. To understand it, spectators need only look outside the billion dollar stadiums to the streets of Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, for they are filled with off-side people, those whom the Rainbow Nation has yet to embrace.

The complexities of the off-side rule are almost indescribable on paper – it’s best explained with pepper-pots or, these days, YouTube. But the regulation is essentially this: it’s okay to loiter wherever you want on the football field, but if you find yourself behind your opponent’s lines in the wrong place when a ball is kicked your way , you can watch it fall, but cannot play it. Behind the lines of rivals, seeing events unfold, but unable to join in the game: that happens all the time in South Africa.

In particular, such is the plight of over ten million South Africans without proper housing, many living in legal limbo throughout South Africa’s cities, under bridges, near trash dumps, on slopes and beyond the brows of hills. They’ll be enjoying the World Cup, welcoming their foreign visitors, and the glare of the international media might provide some cover for them to tell their story of twenty years off-side in South Africa.

Under Apartheid, blacks were often violently removed from city centers, expelled to rural areas or forcibly relocated to the townships. When apartheid crumbled, so did the restrictions on movement that had hemmed in a large rural population. On taking power in 1994, Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) government demobilized the popular movements that brought them to power, and swapped apartheid economic dogma for neoliberal doctrine.

The government deregulated the economy, shrank the state, and opened local markets to the winds of international competition. The result: jobs left the cities at precisely the time that new people arrived to take them, and social safety nets were cut to tatters. South Africa’s human development ranking fell from 95th in 1995 to 129th out of 158 countries in 2009

Through the 1990s and 2000s, temporary shacks became permanent homes for 1.8 million households. In cities, settlements blossomed in and around the middle class communities where a few residents found work as security guards, domestic workers, and day laborers. Work remains scarce, and formal unemployment rates in settlements routinely top 70%. When elections loom shack communities are generally tolerated by local government officials, because they offer a way to tuck wads of poor black ANC voters into wealthier and more conservative neighborhoods. Patronage pulses through the shacks during South Africa’s electoral seasons, but dries up during incumbent years.

The ANC insists that the worst of apartheid is over, that the ruling party has led a massive construction program to house the homeless, and that development is coming. Under apartheid, though, township houses stretched over approximately 580 square feet. Today’s shackdwellers are lucky to be relocated to homes with an interior space of 390 square feet, many miles from their work, schools and communities. Even then, tenure is insecure. As the World Cup opens, several Cape Town families face eviction because developers increased rents from $38 to $193 per month. Those who haven’t been given housing yet are encouraged to be patient.

Rather than wait another decade, shackdwellers have organized, protested and petitioned. The Abahlali baseMjondolo movement, a group of over 30,000 shackdwellers from across the country (and whose website I manage) recently took the government to South Africa’s highest court, and won. The Constitutional Court struck down a ‘Slums Act’ that would have effectively criminalized being so poor as to need a shack.

As Amnesty International has noted, though, the weight of these legal victories have been undercut by local violence against Abahlali’s leaders. Over the past year, shack settlement leaders in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town have been chased from their homes by gangs, arrested, detained without hearing and assaulted. The police have done little to help, and much to hinder, investigations into these human rights abuses.

As the World Cup begins, Abahlali are mounting an ‘Upside Down World Cup’ campaign to draw attention to Apartheid’s unfinished business. In Cape Town, they will set up tin shacks outside the Green Point Stadium, positioning themselves off-side, to show how they live. Their greatest threat to the South African government is their visibility, and the activists fear violent arrest.

Yet their only demand is the chance to make the rules on the same terms as everyone else. In setting up their shacks in full view, shackdweller activists hope to turn the streams of passing fans not into spectators, but into team players who might, from their home countries, be able to hold the South African government to their rhetoric long after the Cup’s final whistle blows.

10 Replies to “Off-side at the World Cup”

  1. Many goverments work to winning an election and not for the people. But, how can we begin to change the onwerships relation? how can the countries begin is the beginning doesn´t happen in U.S.
    The IFM and many rich countries have applied recipes to open poor countries economy.
    I would like imagine how to begin, wich will be the first steps?

  2. Myths and realities of the 2010 World Cup

    Assumptions of WC

    • WC will increase economic growth.
    • Create jobs.
    • Expand infrastructure development.
    • Spread confidence and prosperity.
    • WC will benefit Africa.
    • None of these assumptions has materialized.

    • WBHO (construction company)increased profits after taxes by 120%.
    • Group 5 (construction company)increased after tax profits by 79%.
    • M&R (constrction companies)increased after tax profits by 99%.
    • The widfall in profits may have something to do with having entered into ‘open ended’contracts with the government.
    . Most new roads in Guateng are going to be tolled over next two years.This after public money was spent to build the roads!
    • FIFA has declared the 2010 games the most profitable yet in its history.
    • FIFA will take out of this country R20- R25 Billion Rands- tax free after the games are over.
    • The SA government is in the red to the tune of R20 Billion because of WC.
    • The government promised the creation of 500 000 jobs.
    • WC is billed as an economic miracle that will benefit the majority of our people through the trickle down effect of economic growth.
    . SA taxpayers are now going to be saddled with repaying the R billions of debt.
    . Fresh property evaluattions has already began to increase the rates to property owners.
    • The world’s greatest football player Pele rejected the call for the WC to be held in Brazil while he was minister of sport for the government of Brazil! He lost his job a few months later. Pele’s was adamant the WC was not in line of Brazil’s development priorities.
    • South Korea has torn down 3 of their WC stadiums because it was cheaper to do this.

  3. We, regular people, have to take the first steps. Governments don’t. We must realize that the World is one unity and humanity one family, we are all sisters and brothers and must start a grass root movement all over the world. We have had enough of competition and unjustice in the world. Now we must share the resources and stop the starving and deaths of our brothers and sisters. We, humanity, have the key to ending this catastrophic situation.

  4. Maybe people’s own power,pressure groups,can influence the governments and help change the world opinion? There are many people in the world who want a more just distribution of the world resources. We need a mass movement, this may finally change the governments?

  5. There is a Patti Smith-song “People have the Power”, I believe the same and what the people want, will happen (in the sense of the “german” Arthur Schopenhauer), and if I think about there was a big increase of peace on earth last 20 years. In traffic are dying every year about 1,2 mio poeple all over the world – in wars at the time much less then 30.000 per year (as serveral peace-research-institutes claim) – not easy to check, but true.
    So the longing after peace already reached the gouvernments in many parts of the world and nearly surely (I hope) South Africa’s too.

    Nevertheless, – let’s fight like an eagle -.

    So, – sorry – for my not heavenly english

  6. Off-side the World Cup – or Sustainability as Groundwork of Peace

    “Irony of History

    Yet before 25 years the USA regarded themselves as a very Christian country and derived from there even their historical mission. Russia, at that time still the communist Soviet Union, was called by the US president R. Reagan „Empire of the bad“. Now however history seems the roles to exchange …
    Prime Minister Putin would often go to into the church. Putin was observed when he devotional kissed an icon of Blessed Mother Mary . … ” (out of a letter of the author Alfons Sarrach (Germany) in May 2010)

    Obama is as 1/4 Navajo and with a Cherokee as counsellor in the Withe House on his way; , Merkel anyway, Sarkozy has an artist as wife, – thus also, the Englishmen are also half angels (alone already because of their the (country)name …), Spaniards have to such things affinities and also the Portuguese, the Chinese with their Kung Fu are not bad too in these things, the Japanese, the Thailander, the Indian, the Turks, the Greeks, the Brazilians – ~ well however, with the Chilenen there are still little problems I think, the Africans, they are allready quite independently on their way – me again, – but South Africa I mean … – my memory decreases a little – … however the whole G-20 seem to me pretty openly to such things – fuck – always those sick connections in my memory, like a spiderweb … – however, I think there would be with overwhelming probability some more to be enumerated.

    So – sorry and thanks.

    Mhm, – those bad governments… …

    If God, our Father, would forgive in the way we do, we would get therafter unfortunately more problems than before, – so thänks



  7. Trying my most heavenly english now (I ordinary speak “german”) just to share with all

    I know my postings seem to be strange, – so some (me including) believe sometimes all african gouvernments are corrupt and so on – we were working “today” (but what’s time?) on african gouvernments: Libya, Kenya, South Africa and Somalia – and I mean not physically, but mentally …

    So let’s wait and see what we’ll happen “tomorrow”.

    So I can’t deny You are Maitrey my


  8. If someone would examine me,- for example a vatican commission like in Ex-Yugoslavia, this would be not funny fore me, because noone believes in me, even I myself.
    But nevertheless it is good that on Youtube also are many countries, momentarily me, – of course – world championship -, mainly more interest African countries (those have already beautiful parliament-buildings), South Africa also, but not so, – rather more the others, where se poor live.
    So it is really not possible to trust politicians anywhere, not in America, not in Austria or Germany or anywhere.
    Now my real Problem is, – honestly I don’t know really what “mentally” means.


  9. I am very modern, of course, so we do the work via modern media. Not inside out, but outside in, – and the in the case tv-station’s oder others are looking probably astonished or even strange …

    shaq 😉

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