In case you’re wondering why I’ve gone a little quiet on the big themes, it’s because I’m home, in Cape Town, for a couple of weeks. And the most charming thing I’ve seen in the 24 hours I’ve been here is a TV ad that recalls some of what I’ve been thinking about football’s place in breaking down apartheid: It depicts Soweto in the late 60s, and a bunch of kids are getting a game together, picking teams. And then you realize the captains are the legendary Jomo Sono and Ace Ntsoelengoe. And they’re picking from the greats of that generation, Teenage Dladla, Computer Lamolo etc. And then there’s a little kid, who tells them he’s name is Doctor Khumalo (who, some 10 years younger, later became a great Bafana Bafana playmaker), and they let him play because his dad is a famous pro. And then comes a little blonde white boy, looking a little shy. And of the black kids shouts in Xhosa, “Don’t pick him, he probably plays like a cow.” But Jomo Sono throws the ball to the kid who says his name is Gary. And he says “Okay, Gary, you can be my goalkeeper.” (Gary Bailey, blonde and blue eyed, after a successful career as a Manchester United keeper, came home to play in goal for Kaizer Chiefs…) Teared me up, a little, that one did, because outside of progressive politics, the football field was the first place that black and white South Africans met as equals.
Anyway, I’ll be off for a couple of weeks, but back on the big themes soon enough.
P.S. My breakfast yesterday of smoked snoek with mango, and then with egg, reminded me of the versatility of a Cape Town-unique fish whose appeal has been elegized by Calvin Trillin. It really is an essential part of growing up in this city…