Over the past few days, the national women’s football team and national men’s rugby side combined to give South Africans a much-needed mental boost in a disturbing economic and political climate in the country.
The way the two teams went about business on their respective field of play may have been very different, with the Springboks experiencing more nervous moments against Wales in Pretoria than Banyana Banyana did against Nigeria in Morocco, but their victories were nevertheless very timely in view of their countrymen requiring massive “sports plasters” over lingering socio-economic wounds.
Moreover, the sight of a sold-out crowd backing the Boks during their 32-29 win over the plucky Welsh visitors in the first Test at Loftus Stadium in the so-called Jacaranda City on Saturday, combined with a much larger television audience, further signalled that the nation is very happy to be getting past two years of Covid-19 struggles.
Like a meteorite, the pandemic exploded on a South African landscape that already had been battling with huge political challenges, as highlighted by the crucial release of the final report of the Zondo Commission recently.
The “Rainbow Nation” might not have a similar judicial inquiry to help with the endless increases in food and petrol prices, but Banyana Banyana’s 2-1 win over defending African champions and their old tormentors, Nigeria, in their opening group match of Wafcon on Monday night, together with the Damian Willemse-inspired Springbok victory two days earlier, was certainly of the soothing kind.
While both teams will likely face tougher hurdles in coming days and weeks, they have, indeed, given themselves and South Africans, on the whole, some hope in a very desperate period.
Of course, while more cynical patriots might well argue that sports developments should never be used to hide more serious issues in society, South Africa certainly can’t be blamed for wanting to have a sports-created smile or chuckle even if only for a short while – before a return to worrying how to pay for the next loaf of bread or litre of petrol.