Reliving Tshabalala’s magical moment

Siphiwe Tshabalala’s brilliant goal for Bafana in the opening match of the 2010 Fifa World Cup conjures up feelings of ecstasy, joy and ultimately disappointment that a dream was not fulfilled.

Musawenkosi Cabe: Feel it, it is here! 

The 2010 Fifa World Cup had indeed arrived, and for the first time in the history of our household there were no remote-control wars. That was a great feeling for me because being the only staunch football fan, and the only boy child at home, I always lost the battle for the remote. And then I would have to watch the game at a neighbour’s house or follow it on Ukhozi FM if the match was played after 6pm.

Nelson Mandela was proven correct when he said sport has the power to bring peace and unite adversaries, I can attest to that. From 11 June to 11 July, peace prevailed at home as a result of football.

As the herder of both cows and goats, this meant I would have missed the opening match of the World Cup between Bafana Bafana and Mexico had I fulfilled my duties that day. My mother, knowing how dear football was to me, allowed me to bring the animals back early. She also allowed me to go and watch the first game with a group of friends at one of their houses. 

The undisputed fact, where I come from, is that radio commentary is better than television commentary. So naturally, the television was muted and Ukhozi FM’s legendary Joe Hudla was doing his thing. The downside to this is that the radio broadcast is usually a few seconds ahead of what is showing on television. 

I only saw Siphiwe Tshabalala’s goal on replay. By the time we saw Tshabalala receiving the ball from Kagisho Dikgacoi, we were already celebrating and shouting at the top of our lungs. Hudla had famously announced the goal. The moment was beautiful. 

After that goal, I was convinced we would win the World Cup. 

James Oatway: I was there, but didn’t capture the moment  

I was excited even though I was tired. The night before had been the “kick-off concert” at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Amadou and Mariam were great, K’Naan was waving his flag and a very poor BLK JKS fucked their performance up royally, leaving it to Alicia Keys to bail them out with “Let’s hear it for JOBURG… Concrete jungle where dreams are made of…” 

Later, a thief was caught stealing the laptops of journalists in the media centre. It was pretty funny seeing that the World Cup had not even officially started yet.

I arrived early at Soccer City on 11 June. I was so nervous. This was the biggest thing for South Africa. Ever! I was given a position behind the Mexican goal where Tshabalala scored his famous goal. It was not far from the corner flag. I had never seen this many photographers in one place. When Tshabalala got the ball, everything happened so fast. 

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I think I saw him approaching through my lens, but he was coming too close. I ended up just gawking at him. My mouth was probably hanging open. I didn’t even bother trying to take a photograph. Frozen like a donkey in the headlights, I watched in absolute disbelief. The roar from all around was deafening. I think I screamed a little, too. 

I quickly tried to get some pictures but it was too late. He was running away with his back towards me. Even that silly little dance happened on the complete opposite side of where I was sitting. So no, I didn’t get a decent photo of that goal. But I don’t really care. I saw it. I heard it. I experienced it and I’ll never forget it.

Daylin Paul: Best foot forward 

I had been living in South Korea for a year by the time the 2010 World Cup came to South Africa. It was a bit of a sad homecoming for me as I had to go home to Chatsworth to help arrange the funeral of a close relative.  

There was bunting, emblazoned with the flags of all the participating nations hanging between the houses in Shallcross, when the funeral procession left the house. Because we were in mourning, there was no way to watch football and be jovial in the house. So, I went to a childhood friend’s house in Pinetown for a braai and to watch that first game. 

When that ball was dispatched by Shabba’s left foot, time, even sound, seemed to be suspended. It felt like the whole neighbourhood, maybe the whole country, was holding its breath while the Jabulani ball was in the air and then… ricochet off the inside of the bar! The net rustles and he wheels away!  

Pure joy! An explosion of noise! Vuvuzelas, shouts and hugs! I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life.

Dennis Webster: The suburban goal

South African suburbs, especially those in the north of Johannesburg, have been severed off. I should know. I grew up in one. 

Gates, booms, malls, cars, guards, cameras and walls all make for formidable islands among tides of reality. Places where life feeds on death. It was here, in a northern suburb lounge, that I watched Tshabalala put South Africa 1-0 up against Mexico in the opening match of the 2010 World Cup. 

And in that lounge, people forgot themselves for a full 10 minutes. For the briefest moment, it was no longer what was inside their walls that made them happy, but the messy South African project outside them. They gave over to the delirious possibility of a world shared and, more still, to the idea that it might be beautiful. It was a lesson quickly forgotten.

Jan Bornman: Blurred memories of an unforgettable goal 

The opening match of the 2010 World Cup was the first live football game I had ever gone to. In the years since, I have been convinced that my recollection of that day was as clear as if it had happened yesterday. 

I remember getting to the stadium early in the morning with three friends. I remember the World Cup spirit that had touched almost every South African. I remember the opening ceremony, and I especially remember where I was sitting, behind the goal where Tshabalala hit his thunderbolt. 

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But speaking to the friends who joined me for the game now, I realise how different our recollections of that day are. From remembering different friends joining us to how we got to the stadium, to the yellow spray-painted cricket pants we wore. I’ll blame it on all the Budweiser we drank in the hours sitting in the stadium waiting for the game to start. But the one thing we all remember as clearly as if it happened yesterday was the thunderous celebration that erupted in the stands after Tshabalala’s goal. 

Njabulo Ngidi: A big screen on the side of the road 

I didn’t know who it belonged to or how it had ended up there. And to be honest, I didn’t care. What was important was that we had a big screen on which to watch Bafana Bafana’s clash with Mexico, on the side of the road where a friend sold chicken dust (braaied chicken) in White City, Inanda. 

The noise, images and atmosphere coming out of what was then called Soccer City was out of this world, but in my opinion I had the best seat in the country. I was on the edge of the pavement, so most taxi drivers and those who drove the cabs that did local trips asked me for the score when they offloaded passengers next to us. In terms of importance that day was the people who brought the World Cup to South Africa and me, who gave updates to those whose work got in the way of them seeing Africa’s party. 

My “job” was put on hold temporarily when Tshabalala scored that magical goal. Everyone knew that Bafana had scored, even those who were on the road. A few parked their cars and taxis just to catch a glimpse of what was transpiring hundreds of kilometres away. I didn’t see much of what happened after Tshabalala’s goal. I had lost my seat and was too ecstatic to sit down. Bafana were probably experiencing the same feeling – too excited to think straight – because even though they dominated the game, they allowed Mexico to come back and draw the match. 

The two points they dropped in that game led to South Africa suffering the indignity of being the first host nation to crash out of a World Cup tournament in the group stage. In a way it was vintage Bafana, with their power to take us to dizzying heights and then drop us with no parachute. 

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