The Green, Green Grass of Home. Gracias, Honduras.

The last lingering car-flags may be faded and fraying at the edges, but here at the home-ground of the Randburg Assocation Football Club, the legacy of the 2010 World Cup is bright, vibrant, and a heck of  a lot greener than the grass on the other side of the fence.
Because this pitch, once dry and scrappy, was appropriated, dug up, resurfaced, re-goal-netted and boldly white-lined for the exclusive use of the Honduran National Squad, who trained here in the run-up to the Cup, making fine and noble use of the pristine battleground.
Alas, it didn’t them too much good, because they went home with only a single point out of three games, thanks to a pride-salvaging draw against Switzerland.
Now the turf has been returned to its rightful tenants, a tribe of blue-kitted warriors who are only too happy to play their Sunday games on a pitch of World Cup quality.
This picture is from Randburg U12B vs the log-leaders, Disapora Academy U12A.
They’re still the log-leaders, having beaten my son’s tream by 4 goals to 1. As my son pointed out, that’s the same ratio by which Germany beat England. But hey, at least Randburg can be proud that they held the home-ground advantage.
*Technical note: I took this pic with my iPhone, using an app called Tiltshift Generator, which allows you to manipulate the depth-of-field to allow certain areas to stand out in pin-sharp focus, and others not. So the burring here is arty and deliberate. Thank you for noticing!

“Their Only Crime Was Orange”

I wrote this little song in support of the poor Dutch ambush marketeers, who dared to attend Netherlands versus Denmark at Soccer City while wearing bright orange mini-dresses.
If you’d like to write some music for this song, feel free.
If you’d like to sing this song, go for it.
If you’d like to play this song on your guitar and record it and put it on YouTube, you’re very welcome.
But whatever you do…don’t even think of wearing orange to a World Cup football match.


Their Only Crime Was Orange


They came to a land of Goodwill and “Cheers!”

To watch a few games and drink a few beers

They flew to the shores of a Rainbow Nation

That once served as Holland’s Refreshment Station


They came and they saw and because they were Dutch

In the cold chill of winter, they didn’t wear much

Just a skirt and a scarf and below, in the area

A little black label that said, “From Bavaria”


Three cheers, three cheers, for the Dutch marketeers

Oh bring us a round of Budweiser

Three cheers, three cheers, for their hopes and their fears

For now they’re in the scheizer



Their only crime was Orange

And nothing rhymes with orange

Borange, Corange, Dorange, Forange,

Their only crime was Orange!


They came to be proud and to sing for their country

Their voices were loud and they had the effrontery

To dress in the tone of their national banner

And behave in a shameful, provocative manner


They came to a land of a New Revolution

Of freedoms enshrined in a strong Constitution

They came to a land where all that doesn’t matter

For the laws of the land are proclaimed by Sepp Blatter


Three cheers, three cheers, for the Free Marketeers

Let’s drink to the cause they believe in

Three cheers, three cheers, for their hopes and their fears

Good Lord, they must be freezing



Their only crime was Orange

And nothing rhymes with orange

Gorange, Horange, Jorange, Korange

Lorange, Morange, Norange, Porange

Quorange, Rorange, Sorange, Torange

Vorange, Worange, Yorange, Zorange

Their only crime was Orange!



The World Cup Fever-Tree. A New Species. Just in Time for Tomorrow.

The streets in my neighbourhood of Northcliff are named after trees: Acacia, Ebony, Mimosa, Maple, Cedar, Beech, and so on.
That’s because there are more trees in Johannesburg than in any other city in the world, and more World Cup fever too.
The proof: these splendidly-dressed specimens at the corner of Acacia and Shaka. (Okay, not every street is named after a tree.)
I salute the good neighbour who went to all this trouble, and I hope those beagles do their job, and keep watch over the trees and their beautiful bark.

“They’ll call me Freedom, just like a Waving Flag”

Somehow, I missed the memo about the official FIFA 2010 World Cup song, which I had automatically assumed was going to be a fusion of “World in Union”, Special Star”, and “Doo Be Doo”, each of which will be highly familiar to any South African who has ever had to hold on for the next available operator on Telkom’s ADSL Support Line.

But then, by serendipitous circuit, I chanced upon this video of a Somali-born rapper named K’naan performing a song called “Wavin’ Flag”, just  guitar, djembe, and voice, in a Canadian radio studio.

I was hooked from the opening acoustic curlicue, a conscious echo of the intro to Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, conscious because a little later in the song, K’naan manages to weave in a reference to Buffalo Soldiers too.

By paying tribute to Marley, he also wears his mantle, and on the evidence of this song alone, he wears it well. There is passion and ache and joy in his voice, a pride in roots, a wistful yearning to be heard across the world. So listen.

In these spare and simple lyrics lies the whole story of our continent, of the coming of the tall ships, of slavery and displacement, of missionaries with Bibles and soldiers with guns, of promises and betrayal, of war and survival, of the long walk, the long, patient wait, for the one day, someday, any-day-now victory of destiny over history.

This isn’t your typical FIFA World Cup theme song. It isn’t a mawkish song; it isn’t a chest-thumping song; it isn’t We Are the World.

It’s We are Africa, and the World is Coming to Africa, and although I’ll probably be sick of it by the time June 11, 2010 rolls around, for now it gives me goose-bumps, and I can’t think of a more moving, uplifting anthem of Africa that’s ever been written, unless you count the one we’ll be singing just before Bafana kick-off against Mexico at Soccer City.

When I get older, I will be stronger,
They’ll call me freedom, just like a Waving Flag,
And then it goes back, and then it goes back,
And then it goes back

Born to a throne, stronger than Rome
A violent prone, poor people zone,
But it’s my home, all I have known,
Where I got grown, streets we would roam.

But out of the darkness, I came the farthest,
Among the hardest, survival.
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak,
Accept no defeat, surrender retreat,

So we struggling, fighting to eat and
We wondering when we’ll be free,
So we patiently wait, for that fateful day,
It’s not far away, so for now we say

When I get older, I will be stronger,
They’ll call me freedom, just like a Waving Flag,
And then it goes back, and then it goes back,
And then it goes back

So many wars, settling scores,
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor,
I heard them say, love is the way,
Love is the answer, that’s what they say

But look how they treat us, Make us believers,
We fight their battles, then they deceive us,
Try to control us, they couldn’t hold us,
Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers.

But we struggling, fighting to eat,
And we wondering, when we’ll be free
So we patiently wait, for that faithful day,
It’s not far away, but for now we say

When I get older, I will be stronger,
They’ll call me freedom, just like a Waving Flag,
And then it goes back, and then it goes back,
And then it goes back

The World Cup will be played on African soil, but it won’t be played on African grass


This is Pennisetum clandestinum. Most of us know it better, from the vistas that roll by our window as we make our way to the coast, from the smell of the wet earth rising through its pores, from the spongy tickle underfoot as we amble towards the pool, as Kikuyu.

This is the green, grass of Africa. It is hardy, fast-growing, good for grazing.

It takes its name from the Kikuyu tribe of East Africa, and you will find it everywhere in our own country as lawn, as pasture, as the emerald battleground for the Beautiful Game.

But you will not find it at our football stadia, come June 2010.

This is partly because Kikuyu is not green, green enough for the prescribed colour palette of international television, and partly because European footballers are not used to its bounce, and partly because Kikuyu has a habit of turning parchment-yellow in winter, inland if not on the rainy Atlantic coast.

So there are no doubt some good scientific and sporting reasons for FIFA to insist that Kikuyu must go, and be replaced by the more tender, more green variety of European ryegrass, as recommended by such experts as the Sports Turf Research Institute in Bingley, West Yorkshire.

And furthermore, this will not be the first time in history that the Europeans have uprooted an indigenous tradition of African life and replaced it with…okay, wait, let’s not get all ideological about this.

It’s the World Cup, remember. The WORLD Cup. But it’s also the first World Cup to be played on African soil, and it would have been nice, even just symbolically nice, to have it played on the same green, green grass that we’ve all grown up playing on too.

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