South Africa dances to the World Cup - Star Travel writer Adrian Brijbassi
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Brian Green greets me at Nelson Mandela’s foot wearing a bright yellow football jersey and the cheerful admission that he looks like a giant bumblebee. We’re standing beneath the six-metre bronze statue of Mandela that presides over the square that bears his name.
Brian is from Florenceville, New Brunswick, the headquarters of McCain Foods. He’s graciously agreed to show me around Johannesburg because “I love introducing Canadians to South Africa.” And for no other reason. Talk about class.
We meet on Football Friday at the square, where three women are working the Diski. They dance on stage, teaching the moves to a chorus line of three dozen enthusiastic participants eager to learn. We call the game soccer, South Africans from Johannesburg’s townships know it as “diski”, thus the name for this dance that incorporates moves you’d expect from the Brazilian national team.
It ends with a Rockettes-style kick and a wide grin that’s clearly meant to signal “goal”.
The Diski is the “official dance” of the 2010 World Cup and everyone in the country is encouraged to learn it in time for the tournament’s kickoff on June 11. No one seems shy about giving it a try – except for the two Canadians in the group.
Maybe if our country had a team in the tournament…
Instead, Brian and I take a seat and order baby kingklip, a long whitefish shaped like an eel. Served grilled, its tasty, silky flesh falls off the bone. It costs 120 rand, about $16, at Montego Bay, one of many cafes and restaurants that bracket the stage where the Diski dancers bounce.
Nelson Mandela Square is in Sandton City, the fast-developing area in north of Johannesburg’s central district. Many of the city’s main banks and retailers are beating it out of a beat-up downtown, relocating to this spot that’s called “the Beverly Hills of South Africa,” Brian says.
He works for McCain Foods as an IT manager and has been living in South Africa since 2006. Like many others in Johannesburg, he wears a soccer shirt with his company’s logo on Football Fridays (and has kindly given one to me).
How does he find living here?
“I have a hard time seeing myself going back to Canada.”
He basks about the weather, even as a storm cloud creeps over our heads, and says fears about the crime rate are exaggerated. “You have to be careful and there are places where you don’t go out at night, but it’s not at all like what people outside the country might think.”
On Saturday, Brian will arrange for us to visit Soweto and the Cradle of Humankind, as well as some places where Canadians will feel at home when they visit.
That’s a day away. In the meantime, it’s Football Friday and there’s more of the soccer frenzy to take in before the heavy rain falls.