Low-income South Africans provided with big screens for World Cup

The World Cup begins in just a few days, but in South Africa, the site of the event, millions of passionate football fans are likely to be left sitting on the sidelines because of their financial situation.

However, because of a township initiative the global spectacle will be open and free for everybody. And if there was ever a doubt that most South Africans were mad about the game, one only has to spend ten minutes in Johannesburg to get a real feel for their passion.

“It’s like the best thing on Earth,” said Lucky Nkali, manager of Township Television, “It’s a ball, you kick it, it goes there, you score, you win. Soccer… is in the blood. If I had to explain it to you, I’d have to cut myself and you’d read my DNA.”

Forget the stadiums – many residents of the townships come to the big screens to watch the event and to save on car batteries from which they run their TV sets.

“It’s great that the World Cup is coming here to Africa,” said one of the residents.

Entrepreneur and co-founder of Township Television Graeme Joffe saw bringing football to the people in return for branding as a business project.

“There are a lot of townships that don’t have power,” Joffe said. “So when we started here in Diepsloot we were on generators. And we were up and down with [fuel containers] putting in diesel. It was only a year afterwards that we finally got power. But I think it’s just to get out into the open, instead of sitting at home or in a bar, here is an opportunity to enjoy it with the whole family.”

The South African population will be able to watches matches in 20 parks around the country. Most people that come are unemployed and have watched World Cup tickets go to wealthy foreigners – but there is not much resentment.

“I think it’s nice for us, for those people who live in shacks and who don’t have TVs,” said one of the locals. “It’s better for them to come here, so we say it’s a very great thing. This is the World Cup; it’s the moment the World Cup is coming to our country.”

“It’s nice, because of the people, big television, and grass,” stated another.

Journalist Sifiso Ramara says it is important to remember the World Cup is an international event.

“This is not exclusively a South African event. That is why FIFA has tried to relax some of its laws. For the first time people will go and buy tickets over the counter,” Ramara said. “FIFA were selling tickets online – they were making sure that people all over the world get an equal opportunity.”

As a result, the fans from the townships are unlikely to miss a kick, even if it is only on a big screen. Their passion and stoicism is surely something which African soccer can be proud of.