Saturday, June 19, 2010

Report From The Field - Dr. K's World Cup Diary

Regular readers of this “newsletter” (all three of them) are aware that I am in South Africa at the moment, commuting between Johannesburg, Cape-Town and Durban attending life-saving meetings about trafficking that also happen to coincide with some of the more interesting games in the World Cup. I am also attending the odd meeting in Rastenberg (the proximity to Sun City, a nearby monument of tastefulness, is reassuring) but I do try to stay away from Blumfontein and Nelspruit, where driving around in a white landcruiser among the millions BMWs gracing the roads of South Africa makes one liable to be mistaken for a farmer, an indignity no man in my position could risk.

The fortunate timing allows me to make use of my WorldCup VIP tickets - graciously offered by the organizers as a token of their commitment to oppose trafficking, extracted with well designed guilt trips - and watch some of the games from obligatory "Hospitality Suites" where I not only find shelter from the nasty elements, but also afford a good view of the game, along with complementary snacks and beverages.

A man of my status has little time for frivolous games involving uneducated people running after a ball but I wouldn’t want to offend the organizers. Besides, someone needs to keep an eye out for the traffickers, who will surely make use of this event to ply their unspeakable trade.

Speaking of trade – at one of the games last week I was positively impressed by the swiftness with which officials have apprehended and ever so slightly slapped around a lowly criminal attempting to sell coffee during the game. Sponsors and organizers cannot afford to lose potential business by allowing the competition of small-time entrepreneurs spoiling a perfect opportunity to rip people off shamelessly.

As an enthusiast myself, I cannot but marvel at the beautiful act of creating a solid fallacy for the masses to believe that it is all about the game, in order to lock-in an average of 30,000 wallets in a confined area the size of a small city, 3 times a day, for 3-4 hours at a time and shove expensive shit down their throats. And I can only sympathize with the strategic geniuses behind this scheme who see their plans threatened by some dude selling coffee out of 5 liter flasks, not to mention the terrorist-like criminals trying to flog wire-and-beads souvenirs to the masses, thinning out the demand for sponsored-approved vuvuzelas.

Once arrived at the hospitality suite, I fortified myself with a few shots of free beverage (the sponsor-approved vintage of course) after which I took to the galleries, trying to get some street cred – nothing like rubbing shoulders with the commoners. The fine people manning the divide between dignified people like me and scum warned me that once stepping on the other side I will be lost unless I keep my lanyarded pass visible. Then they stepped aside and I was by myself among the masses:
It was a viciously cold night (what? cold in "africa"?) and my hand-tailored silk shirt and beige Gucci 3-piece, specially tailored for Africa, was not doing me any justice. I looked around and I realized that the locals have developed truly innovative ways to protect themselves from the cold, such as applying a randomly colored substance to their skin, hugging stuffed animals and jumping around in crowded groups:

(The Local Solution: a right mix of face-paint, stuffed lions and traditional, elaborate "moves")

Like everything else in life, football thrives on competition and in this particular instance the competition was between people favouring yellow and green:

And some favouring blue, vastly outnumbered but not less loud:

Check out the odd-dude-out, supporting red, which can only be the color of the referee. My kind of guy:

(me, i support the referee)

With my street-cred reinforced by the short walk among the masses, I rushed back in the warmed hospitality suite, where, further fortified by the free beverage deal, I proceeded to watch the game. Here is the view from the suite:
(at least i didn't pay for the view)

Not being able to see much, plus the comparative quietness of the suite, the warmth and the right mix of full stomach, comfortable arm-chair and free-flowing beverages have induced a heavy sleep in this over-worked aid professional, causing me to awaken to the gentle poking of a hospitality hostess, pointing out an empty stadium and a pitch populated by people with rakes fixing the turf. I asked her what the score was, and it turns out the wrong team won, i just forgot which one that was.

Well, them and the referee of course - there is a lesson right there for everyone in our business sector.
One detail that needs mentioning is that unlike the masses outside, queing in the cold for the luxury of urination, I had readily access to a toilet facility right there in the suite. And that toilet, very much like similar facilities I have visited in other hospitality suites at this wold cup (as well as in some of the choicer hotels I have been accommodated in) had the extra touch of being fitted with speakers continuously playing that cheesy song with the flag, while silent LCD Screens incorporated in the walls continuously showed Shakira in her hybrid Mobutu-Tahiti-school-of-fashion outfit (everyone knows you cannot go wrong when combining zebra patterns with waguely Polynesian-looking dress when attempting to nail an "african" visual), doing her part in promoting the event.

Is that a coincidence? I think what happened is it was a competition between the two favourite songs and a wise peace-maker among the organizers proposed to show the more pleasing image on the screens (skin sells, stupid), while playing the other song as a soundtrack. everybody happy and my instincts immediately recognized the familiar Win-Win, and as we speak I am trying to track down the person who came up with this idea for a swift head-hunting.

HRI needs people like that to keep the edge.


  1. You are a genius.

  2. Dr. Kurtz-

    I am a little disappointed that you did not inform me, as your Director of Diversity (DoD) about this incredibly important trip to the most vocally diverse country in Africa . And at such an opportune time, when all my Intercultural Dialogue skills would have come in handy- how many of my crucial inputs has HRI had to do without! In the hospitality suites no less!

    La Negresse