RSA 0 URU 3: Don’t go quietly

SOUTH African celric and activist Desmond Tutu has wandered into the great vuvuzela debate. And what a debate it is turning out to be. At this rate, it surely can’t be long before a vuvuzela is invited on to Question Time.

Tutu – rightly, in my view – has defended the vuvuzelas. “Blow them even louder,” he urged. “The world has come to South Africa. We will be hospitable and nice to people, but they have got to accept our tradition.”

The vuvuzela is part of what has made the World Cup unique. And at a tournament in which the games have been far from special, a unique atmosphere has been vital. Rarely can there have been a World Cup where the hosts are so thrilled to be holding the party.

A look at the calendar would have given a clue as to why. June 16 is a significant day in South African history. On that day in 1976, the Soweto uprising showed up the brutality of the country’s apartheid regime to the world.

Protests against the regime by 20,000 students resulted in more than 700 deaths. The government’s actions against the protestors caused national and international outrage. June 16 is now designated as Youth Day in South Africa.

The country has come a long way since 1976, and hosting the World Cup is a significant part of that development. The players know it.

“It is a really special day for everyone,” said captain Aaron Mokoena ahead of tonight’s match against Uruguay in Pretoria. “It would be great to win for everyone on the day. The 16th means a lot.”

South Africa’s players have been dancing into the stadium as they have prepared for their games. It would be terrific for the tournament if they were to progress beyond the group stage, but it looks very unlikely after tonight’s defeat, where Diego Forlan was the main man for Uruguay.

A contributor to Danny Baker’s Radio Five Live show tonight described Forlan’s appearance as “50 per cent Ted Danson, 50 per cent Sarah Jessica Parker”. But the man who was in danger of becoming a comic figure during a difficult stint at Manchester United is now one of La Liga’s most feared forwards.

He scored the goal that won the Europa League for Atletico Madrid last month. Tonight, he scored the two goals that tipped South Africa to the brink of World Cup elimination.

The first was a well-taken long-range effort which flew in via a slight deflection and the underside of the crossbar. The second was a confident penalty after keeper Ituneleng Khune was sent off for bringing down Luis Suarez. Alvaro Pereira’s close-range third ended the contest and almost – almost – silenced the vuvuzelas.

It would be a shame, though, if they did go silent.

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