Exuberance is the only word that adequately expresses the goings-on in Russia this past month, with the nations competing against each other at the amazing 2018 World Cup Soccer event.
It will surely be remembered as the Soccer World Cup of last-minute-goals. This is what brought out the exuberance of the players, the fans, and the TV world watchers around the world, of which I was one ardent couch spectator.
What excitement and happiness and what disappointment and despair all wrapped up in this extreme emotion of exuberance – blatantly and un-ashamedly displayed for all to see. How nice to see man at his best – happy ! (and isn’t man at his happiest when he is chasing a ball !!) Nevertheless, it was as if a veil was momentarily lifted and license had been given to be who you are and who you shout the loudest for. All the trappings of pretence and reserve removed in a moment of patriotic loyalty; done without threat or fear, in the manner that the sport of Soccer provided for four weeks for the whole world to see.
Amazing was the fitness and stamina of these players. Honed through months, and for some years, hard practise, discipline and dedication. To be coached, mentored and primed to this pinnacle event, held every four years. Soldiers of Soccer prepared for gigantic battles to be fought with everything that is in them. The last time I viewed such absolute verve and determination was with the movie Brave Heart, but that was just a movie – this is real-life passion, played out in Soccer. The passion that drove these young men was astounding to observe. Their never give up attitudes, their falling down, some spiralling extra spins for show and penalties, some vehemently arguing their way out of yellow cards, and in some cases unfair decisions – letting the moment of frenzy play out to their advantage. Soccer is seemingly not just a sport of great scintillating foot skills, but clever psychological manoeuvres as well. A combination of clever head and footwork ! But it is the combination of stamina and that vital ingredient passion that made me watch men at their best, doing what they do best.
Interestingly too, was the transition taking place. One generation of soccer players moving on to make room for a new generation of younger players. That was perhaps the reason for the unexpected wins of the less likely teams to go through to the quarter and semi finals. One could almost see a wave breaking, and new time players and teams emerging onto this world stage.
Loved “braziliant” Brazil, as my son named them, and their samba soccer. Such exciting soccer to watch. The English and Belgium teams, grounded and steadfast. The Colombians were a little too hot-headed and undisciplined. The sad, but perhaps timely exit of the “old establishment” soccer nations. And all the noisy grandstanding crowds ridiculous yet colourful in their apparel of capes and wigs and painted faces. A real carnival of the nations.
Happy times make happy memories, and this Russia has surely provided. What a memorable, and extremely well organised event, that show-cased their nation in the best way possible – capitalizing on making Russia a definite win, in spite of their courageous team, not quite making it to the grand finale.
At the end of it all, Soccer as a sport, scored the final winning goal, by bringing the nations together.
Its been exciting, exhilarating and exuberant to watch – momentary escapism at its best !
Now excuse me as I mount up my munchies bowl and puff up my cushion to take up the best seat, for the last week of this grand tournament of super soccer nations, my couch.
And may the best team win.
Sometimes it takes words of affirmation to create an atmosphere for going from good to great. You may be the Cinderella of all the cities in South Africa, but you have the power of attraction for those who need time off from the merry-go-round of life.
But you are more than that. You are a kaleidoscope of hope, of contrasts and diversity, set in a paradise of green.
Durban you are a port on the East Coast of Africa.
Ships from afar, carriers of merchandise, wait their turn to enter your port, to foster the economy of the South. And hope does not go unnoticed as the number of these ships have increased dramatically over the years – reminding us that indeed you are ‘a market place for nations’.
A city of lay-back laziness that can trap the diligent and industrious person with a lethargy brought on by the gentle tropical climes of a warm ocean current. “Tomorrow is another day” well may be the creed you live by – and yet ! The steady onward everyday flow of the inevitable, continues to urge you to perform your duties with diligence. Your history is rich, your position is well place for the growth of a new emerging world on the African continent.
Your Oil Refineries are strategic, as are your marketable industries on the south side of your city. The southbound road takes your travellers back on a memory road, to old favourite holiday resorts, that have filled up many family photo albums with sweet memories of lazy sun-filled bucket and spade holidays.
Quite uniquely, in the heart of your city, are the Durban Botanical Gardens. Noticed, apart from its magnificence, is the peace that lingers there. Now if ever the Good Lord would want a cathedral to live in, it would surely be in this majestic cathedral of green – a garden with its huge trees that were planted some 300 years ago. It is one of Africa’s oldest botanical gardens, and I suspect by far the best on the continent.
Your inner city now scarcely reflects the former heyday of your holidaymakers’ favourite destination. It has become crowded and derelict, as most inner cities are, with the influx of those desperate for employment and cheap accommodation. Yet, two or three blocks up, on your sea-side, are found well-kept paved promenades. Walkways with tall hotels, all with sea-views, that tell a different story of who you were, and now want to become.
A city caught with one foot in a developed world, the other foot still entangled in poverty. And indeed is this not the state of any modern city in the world of today ? A world on a runaway train toward globalisation no matter the cost – for there is always a cost, there is always a price to pay for progress and development !
Now going northward – the touch of your colonial history is still markedly seen in your suburban landscape of the yesterday-wealth. Grand homes in beautiful tree-lined streets with lush green gardens, steeped in your recent history of refined living. Planted and painted into a part of the master portrait of South Africa’s history of diversity. Durban you are a world showcase for diversity.
But time moves on.
And a new era, for some, has arrived. A time of unprecedented sophisticated living, as seen in the great shopping mall of Gateway Theatre of Shopping, some say the largest in the southern hemisphere, and the brand new developments of the Pearl towers for renowned accommodation.
Umhlanga Rocks reveals your ability to transform yourself, yet again, into an international tourist destination with its new modern high-rise Pearl towers and hotels, – contrasted by the ever loved ‘little village’ where the locals still meet and converse over a pint of brew.
A promenade of note with its iconic Whalebones Pier that enables one to walk on water! The recognised landmark of Umhlanga Rocks, the red and white light-house, a beacon of light, near the world-famous Oyster Box Hotel. No expense is spared, nothing but the best is offered to presidents and kings, and the visitors of Europe and the Elsewheres of the world.
Still northward bound on route to the new King Shaka International Airport., the outskirts of the city give a show of brilliant green that is seen in the waving sugar cane fields, and the rolling hills that call out ‘ go the distance !’
Beautiful are the green hills of Kwa Zulu Natal – the green Province with its emerald-green beauty and flowing hills, a setting fit for prosperity – equally so for the penny and for the soul.
Going further north through the sugar cane fields, the main road will bring us to the mushrooming town of Ballito Bay, one of South Africa’s fastest growing modern real estate developments.
But if we are astute we will notice the road signs that take us off the main highway to settlements and townships that do not enjoy an acclaim to wealth.
And if we travel far enough we may encounter the rural folk of another world. A folk that have not yet made the leap from poverty to ‘progress’ – but have so much to offer with their rich cultural heritage.
The very wide gap from the arrogant and unsaturated rich in their affluent towers and malls to the simplistic living of the rural inhabitants is a screaming silent reality.
Inequality is a stamp on all our record sheets.
And it is in this ever-widening gap that a paradigm shift needs to occur, a miracle needs to happen, so that you can go from good to great. Pay attention also to the needs of the poorest of the poor, so that they can rise up and experience a kind of progress too.
Herein lies your miracle, bridging the gap between two worlds, if not three, – the haves, the have-nots, and the have-yachts !
Nevertheless all worlds can offer their own version and contribution toward ‘being rich’ – whatever that may mean, each in their own way. For sometimes the rich are not rich, and the poor are not poor. Sometimes the ‘developed world’ has much to learn about being “civilised”, the knowing of ‘Ubuntu’ – respect – simple courtesy, simple humanity ! Someone once said, ‘ courtesy is the first rung on the ladder toward civilisation ‘ – something the 4×4 riders, taxi drivers and road-ragers need to know and understand !
As a City you have kept up with your own transformation – indeed you have to do so, for your saving grace is in the lucrative revenue that lies in the holiday and tourist trade, robust business and employment, and of course the fine revenues from the Ports and Customs.
But most noteworthy of all are your peoples – a vast array of cultures within your social perimeters, which is the very fabric of your rich design, all gems in the crown of your disposition.
The Zulu people, with their ancestral and stout warrior history with colourful beads that tell their stories;
The rowdy yet gentle influence of the British, intertwined into your history.
The colourful vibrancy of the Indian culture, with their special cuisine of aromatic spices, curries and of course the famous Durban Bunny Chow.
The African People with their new-found vehement political clamour, coming to terms with power, and what that truly means, moulding the nation for tomorrow.
Indeed a beautiful mosaic of cultures, living side by side by the sea, in peace and harmony. Amazing microscopic worlds within a world, called Durban.
Your people and your children are easy, fun-loving, and sunshine kids – and daring too. Totally Sports obsessed, with any reason to walk, run, ride, swim, surf or canoe an epic event – a case in point the Comrades Marathon. A marathon of well over 90 kilometres between Durban and the hilly countryside of Pietermaritzburg. Who thinks out such things !!?
Great are your vistas for sports, but more so are your spectacular views of land and seascapes that lend wings to those who need to be lifted higher.
Durban, you are like a brilliant green emerald gem, an often overlooked gem, among the chief cities of South Africa. Slowly going about your daily business of business, culture and sport, with the determined purpose of welcoming your visitors from afar with warmth and hospitality. Hospitality that inborn trait you carry off so well.
No better place to see, no better place to be other than in “Durbs by the Sea” as our upcountry folk would say, when they pack for their annual holiday to crowd out your beaches with abandoned glee.
Durban, as the sunshine state of South Africa, you should surely be on the ‘must see list’ of the global community. You may take your place with pride, among the ranks of other destinations who strive for the recognition of ‘most beautiful place in the world ‘ – nonetheless contrasted by ‘new worlds’ waiting to be born into prosperity.
When your visitors step into this green paradise, they will surely hear the wind and the waves softly whisper : “You are welcome here”.