The history of apartheid continues to resonate

I can’t help but read this story in the New York Times about the World Cup and wonder about years ahead, when Israel has left its apartheid behind. People will look back and wonder how it ever happened. And those who backed and supported to the last drop of blood will not be forgotten. Who will lead the Jewish state out of its current disaster?

Given that the Dutch are former colonial masters and their descendants instigated the harsh racial policies of apartheid, one might think that many South Africans, blacks especially, would not cheer for the Netherlands against Spain on Sunday in the World Cup final.

In truth, many will not, but mostly for reasons involving the aesthetics of soccer, not a half-century of state-mandated oppression of blacks.

“Loads of us favor Spain, but it is because they have a flair, a quality,” said Lucas Radebe, a black South African who was captain of World Cup teams in 1998 and 2002. “This is all about football. History is history.”

On the other hand, many black and mixed-race South Africans are rooting for the Netherlands, along with white Afrikaners, who are of Dutch descent. Radebe said that 16 years after the fall of apartheid, this represented a sign of progress, a recognition of deep historical and cultural connections, and a confirmation of Nelson Mandela’s belief in the healing power of sports.

In 1995, a year after being voted president, Mandela famously wore the jersey of the Springboks, the national rugby team largely supported by whites and resented by blacks, as South Africa won the world rugby championship here.

“We forgive and forget,” Radebe said. “You’ve got to live in the world and you want to do it in peace. Mandela said we had to tolerate each other. Somebody has to give in so we can make our way forward. Sport has the power to unite people and change individuals.”

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

Site by Common