With the finale of the World Cup yesterday, I feel as if the world needs a moment of silence or something to recognize the end of something truly magical. There were so many wonderful moments including the very last when Spain took home the grand prize for their first time. Watching goalie Iker Casillas weep like a newborn then raise the trophy above his team to thousands and thousands of fans...well, clearly I got a little emotional. To add to the sweetness of that moment are so many joys that came before throughout a tournament that literally had me jumping with joy at one moment and weeping with utter sadness at the next. The fact that all of this happened on the continent of Africa makes it all the sweeter. While an African nation did not earn the final prize, to say they put up a good fight is clearly an understatement. More importantly, I really hope the rest of the world got to see a little of the magic that I have always seen in my home continent. That despite all the negativity that may surround the continent and South Africa, the optimism outshines the doom and gloom every single time.
Though the games may be over for now, football will continue to be played all over the continent. What I most hope is that countries around the continent begin to really invest in young players the way they do throughout Europe and Latin America. I am convinced that for every talented player that heads to Europe, there are dozens of young potentials playing on beaches and fields that lie undiscovered. Maybe with greater investments in coaching and youth leagues and building up of national leagues so that in addition to cheering on Manchester United or Real Madrid, African fans will also have their own top-notch clubs to root on within their own continent. It might seem like tall order , but when it comes to Africa, I'm all about reaching for the moon.
As an end to my sentimental spiel, I'd like to highlight these amazing pictures by Dutch photographer Jessica Hilltout. Using a 1978 Hasselbald, Hilltout travelled to 10 countries on the continent to document the passion for the sport. When I first saw these images, I literally got choked up with that "ohh I miss Africa" feeling that overwhelms me at times. The images of balls made from plastic bags, old rice bags and basically any thing a hand can find really reminds me of how simple life can be - a ball is all it takes to reach the highest heights of joy!