South African Scholars on Bowdoin and World Cup

Story posted June 30, 2010

They might have been glued to the television with their friends all month, or actually sitting in a stadium watching international soccer, but five talented, young South African scholars made the tough choice to forego the World Cup games—being played for the first time ever on African soil—in order to come to Bowdoin as Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows.

The research program includes a challenging array of workshops, lectures, seminars and public service activities designed to introduce the fellows—including a complement of five Bowdoin students—to the rigors of research, encouraging them to pursue graduates studies leading to Ph.Ds.

Several of the South African students, all of whom attend University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, took a moment to reflect on the question:

"What does the World Cup mean to you?"

Sello Ralethe

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Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow Sello Ralethe

The World Cup being in Africa for the first time means Africa being given a chance to shine in their own backyard and with their fans chanting for them. It also means a great opportunity for people who love soccer who can't afford to go to stadiums. The tickets were much cheaper for locals.

My dad bought me a ticket for the opening game and the final game. He didn't know I was going to come to the States, so I missed out, but I'll catch the finals. It was a hard choice, but coming here was for the good. This is my first time in the States, my first time out of the country.

I bet with my friend that we reach the semi-finals, so I already lost my bet. No money, just a friendly game. For the whole week I'll be buying him lunch back home.

Matsie Mabeta, Witwatersrand program coordinator

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Matsie Mabeta, Witwatersand coordinator for Mellon Mays Fellows

When it was first mentioned that South Africa will be hosting we were all excited because of more jobs for jobless people, we thought of really making history because the World Cup has never been hosted anywhere in Africa.

Once the World Cup is over it's going to be back to normal, there won't be any more jobs. Wherever a stadium was built, the people from the area were benefitting. Those stadiums will be there and there won't be any more money coming in. Apparently, for local clubs to use those stadiums, some large amounts are expected from them, something that most of the clubs can't afford.

But the World Cup brought people together, I wonder if you've seen the pictures. Everywhere around, in communities we're all together. That's the most important thing.

Kemang Lehulere

kemang lehulere
Mellon Mays Research Fellow Kemang Lehulere

The only interest I have in the World Cup is watching social relations, how people are behaving. Unfortunately, I can't do that very well from here except watch the Fellows and the Bowdoin students who we live with.

I also had a ticket for some games and my interest was primarily to go as an observer, to witness the moment. I would like to go with an open mind, not necessarily with certain objectives or point of view. Rather, like observing people in a line during an election, trying to understand a process that is unfolding at a particular time for South Africans.

Siphiwe Lebese

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Mellon Mays Research Fellow Siphiwe Lebese

For me it means a lot, given my background. I come from the Township of Tembisa and I stay next to the stadium, so being able to see that a city that is not in good condition being improved meant a lot to me. The stadium is just across the road. There are lots of people but I don't consider it noise: I consider it celebration, in African spirit.

Even though some people complain about the stadium not being affordable later, I believe that there will be a way later in which people who have money and those who want to use it can negotiate. Overall now, we have a better infrastructure because they were investing in the World Cup.

Even before I left, I went to one international game being played, Nigeria against Japan. It was nice to come and sit there and watch the game along with my fellow people from around Tembisa. For the mere fact that we got the tickets for free, because it was a friendly game. We got to see an international game and you don't get that opportunity often.

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