Saturday, 12 June 2010

Trafalgar Square reflections on South Africa

I stood beneath Nelson's Column yesterday afternoon taking photos of football fans celebrating the World Cup 2010 kick off in South Africa and just for a moment cast my mind back to the anti-apartheid demonstrations that rocked London's Trafalgar Square throughout the 1980s. The South African Embassy on the east side of the square (above, behind football fan waving flag) now flies the flag of a democratic country no longer ruled by racial separation.

Yesterday (June 11), South African Londoners filled Trafalgar Square, waving the flag, singing the national anthem (above) and dancing (below).

The London regiment of 'Bafana Bafana' football fans, hooted their vuvezelas, celebrating the opening of the 2010 World Cup in their nation, the first World Cup hosted in Africa.

The opening ceremony, and the tense opening match between South Africa and Mexico played in the 94,000 Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, were relayed by satellite TV and shown on a huge screen placed between the London square's famous lions. 

Bafana Bafana fans celebrated with a mix of disbelief and elation when South Africa's Siphiwe Tshabalala gave their country a 55th minute lead (below). But it was the Mexican Londoners who enjoyed the last cheer when Rafael Marquez scored a 79th minute equaliser to make the final score 1-1.

For South Africa, the event showed that whilst genuine economic equality remains a huge challenge, political freedoms have been won within a generation. The fun and friendly atmosphere was also London's part in the World Cup; perhaps the world's first truly global event, now that it's being hosted in Africa for the first time. As for Trafalgar Square, it had hosted yet another event to showcase London as a truly global city.

Paul Coleman, London, June 2010.

Photos by Paul Coleman

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lovely photos, such a shame about the lies that flew across the world about what South Africa was really like. E.g. photos were published of blacks resting during lunch time on Church Square in Pretoria - but what did the newspapers say? Their captions were: blacks killed by South Africans. I can carry on, no use, it's easy to misled the world if you want [and can], look at Syria. The ANC offered up some of their own people to mislead the sad is that? Just to get the sympathy of the world and people on their side. South Africa is a BEAUTIFUL country, not deserving the leaders we have now. If only Mandela was still our leader...current leaders are a joke. _ Nikki