Tuesday, 13 July 2010

My farewell to the rainbow nation

It was often said before the World Cup that South Africa is the world's best kept secret. Well now, after successfully hosting one of the most exciting and memorable World Cup tournaments in history, its safe to say - the secret is well and truly out.

I've tried to regularly share my experiences and observations whilst being here and I hope - if you're not familiar with South Africa - that my ramblings have given you some valuable insight and sparked a little intrigue.

To come to a place like South Africa and allow what you've heard to control your actions and poison your perception is a crime, it defeats the purpose of your journey (unless you're here purely on business). In reality, very few things in life meet your expectations, whatever they are - for better or for worse. In South Africa's case, in my experience, this place has been positively so much more than I could have wished for.

If I was expecting to have a torturous time, dodging bullets, running from machete gangs and ballsing my valuables - I can near enough guarantee that at least one of those delightful experiences would have been granted to me.

Instead, I came here with my arms wide open and surprise surprise, the majority of people I met here greeted me in kind. Granted - I wasn't dripping with diamonds and holding an iPad in one hand and a Blackberry in the other - but do that in London's Liverpool street or New York's 5th street and you're simply courting trouble.

There are areas of South Africa where people are desperately poor, living in Townships and squats where their comforts are tin roofs and roadside fires. Many people know about these things (from a far) but you've got to see it with you're own eyes and breathe in the smoke.

Damning and avoiding a whole country (in many cases - the whole continent) in ignorant fear of the millions of people who are living in dire conditions is not going to help anybody. I sincerely encourage you to travel to places all over the world that you may have unjustly formed a negative opinion of, challenge your perceptions, get your hands dirty and open a dialogue with the people who actually live there. If you have no opinion there's less excuses and even more reason to get involved and form one.

I've always been curious about South Africa and I'm exceedingly thankful for the opportunity I was given to be here. My only regret is that I waited for an opportunity and didn't make it my business to be here sooner.

Alas, this brings my South African journey to a close, next stop?

I hear there's a well known football tournament happening somewhere in South America in a couple of years...

- Mr Devo

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Friday, 9 July 2010

Social media comes into its own for the World Cup

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are flooded with World Cup related content, with key tournament moments sparking global debates, viral jokes and displays of national team support.

Sports fans love talking about sport, as much as they love watching it and the internet is providing the ultimate platform.

From posting pictures of themselves at fanparks and stadiums to giving running match commentary via status updates, never before have so many people engaged with the World Cup through social media.

It seems that companies have capitalised on the World Cup’s online boom with global brands like EA Sports, Coco-Cola and Nike getting in on the action.

EA in partnership with games developer Playfish launched the first Facebook sports game, Facebook Superstars before the World Cup and in the past two weeks, 5.2 million Facebook users have used the application to make game predictions.

Due to the success of Football Superstars EA are planning to launch a Facebook version of NFL game Madden hoping to replicate the World Cup’s online boost during the NFL season and the Super Bowl.

In FIFA’s official World Cup football title, also made by EA, a new online feature allows game players to relive some of this World Cup’s greatest moments.

Executive Producer of the game, Kaz Makita, said: “This is an ambitious and completely unique feature that has never before been attempted for football video games.

“The hopes and dreams of nations will rise and fall throughout the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final and within hours after the real matches have occurred our development team will re-create the storylines in our game and provide fans the opportunity to replay and, perhaps, change the outcome – virtually.”

A Facebook-based fantasy football league game was also launched for the World Cup, including all 736 players from the 32 teams participating in the 2010 World Cup.

The game created by Middle Eastern games company Quirkat allows users to carry out micro-transactions and play against friends.

Soft drink giant Coco-Cola, who astonishingly has almost seven million Facebook “fans”, released a social media-only exclusive viral ad campaign, featuring Cameroon’s Roger Miller and his infamous goal celebration in 1990, which he just happened to do in front of a Coca-Cola billboard.

The ad campaign, called “The History of Celebration”, encourages people to upload their own goal celebrations to YouTube.

Director of worldwide sports and entertainment marketing at Coca-Cola, Emmanuel Seuge says that the digital strategy is all part of the aim to target younger viewers.

Twitter created a special World Cup website “twitter.com/worldcup/worldcup” which gathers “Top Tweets” and gives football fans a unique platform to follow their team’s progress and connect with other fans and follow football stars and coaches via a “suggested accounts” list.

Although, fans of the finalists Holland and Spain are missing out, as the players from those national teams have been banned from Tweeting during the World Cup.

On the opening day of the tournament, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, said: "We've put together a special site to capture the spirit of the World Cup and it's already pulsing with activity."

As well as the special site, Twitter also provided users with World Cup themed profile pages and country flag “hashtags”.

Twitter, which crashed when Brazil were dumped out of the competition by Holland, seems to be the number one place for online football fans to talk about the tournament.

Classic 2010 World Cup moments, such as England midfielder Frank Lampard’s ghost goal, Fabiano’s double handball and Portugal’s drubbing of North Korea all became big trending topics on the site.

However, none of those have been more popular online than the controversial Vuvuzela which became the first ever World Cup trending topic on Twitter.

The vuvuzela is also proving to be a huge hit on YouTube, with hundreds of “How to blow a vuvuzela” videos flooding the site. Applications and games featuring the vuvuzela have also been widely popular. A YouTube video featuring the vuvuzela in arcade game classic, DOOM, managed to get one million hits in only a week.

This World Cup has inspired online users in their millions and with internet access on the increase and the digital legacy of South Africa 2010, who knows what Brazil 2014 will have in store for the social media community?

- Mr Devo

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Saturday, 3 July 2010

FIFA Rules Reward Robbery

Photograph: REUTERS/Siphewe Sibeko

Following one of the most thrilling World Cup quarter final matches in recent history, Ghana are knocked out of the tournament on penalties.

In a game that captured the heart of a continent, Ghana valiantly carried the hopes of Africa to the brink of a historical semi-final place, but their dreams were shattered after having their last gasp match-winner blocked on the goal line by the hand of Uruguayan midfielder Luis Suárez in the dying seconds of extra-time.

Suárez received a straight red card by the referee and a penalty was rewarded to Ghana, whose star player, Asamoah Gyan was heartbreakingly unable to convert the chance into a goal.

As Suárez walked down the tunnel with his head buried in his shirt he leapt and celebrated Gyan’s miss, knowing that his cheating handball had kept his country in the World Cup.

Uruguay went on to win the game 4-2 on penalties and Suárez was paraded around Soccer City on the shoulders of his team mates, while thousands of Ghana fans sat stunned by the injustice they had just witnessed.

At present, the punishment for intentionally stopping the ball from crossing the line with your hand is a red card and a penalty, the same punishment that is given when a player or goal keeper prevents a goal scoring opportunity.

However, illegally preventing a goal is not the same as illegally preventing the chance of a goal – so dealing with the two incidents with a like-for-like punishment opens the door for cheats like Suárez.

South African Ghana fan, Tommy Linder, said after the game: “Surely FIFA cannot keep this rule in place, if a player knew that by preventing a goal with his hand, he would receive a red card and concede a goal anyway, he would not cheat.”

Suárez, commenting on his cheating act, "I think I made the best save of the WorldCup," he said, labelling it "the hand of Suarez."

He sat alone nervously, watching on from the dressing room as his handball and Gyan’s miss sent the tie into penalties, but after Uruguay held their nerve to win 4-2, Suárez, now hailed a national hero, said today that his sacrifice was “worth it”.

Of course no World Cup would be the same if it were entirely free of controversial decisions and villains, but the beautiful game turns ugly when the rules reward cheating.

Regardless of the outcome, Ghana were the better team and should be proud of their showing at the World Cup, roll on 2014.

- Mr Devo

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Friday, 2 July 2010

“Viva African solidarity, viva!”

Nomvula Mokonyane speaking at Yeoville Ghana Festival. Photograph: Jon Devo

This was the message Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane gave as she encouraged all members of Yeoville’s culturally diverse community to stand as Africans side by side and support the Black Stars at a Ghana festival held in Yeoville Square earlier today.

With all eyes on the Ghanaian national team today, the Gauteng Premier took the opportunity to remind the crowd of Ghana’s political role in supporting South Africa’s struggle to freedom.

“We are free today because Ghana was amongst those, who when days were dark, they gave us a home away from home,” she continued, “we are saying to the people of Ghana, you are a brother, you are a sister, and we are all Africans.”

In response to the recent threats of xenophobic violence after the World Cup, Mokonyane called for Africans to show the world that despite being divided by other nations in the past it is time for Africa to unite and love one another. Justify Full

Tonight, Mokonyane says, "Africa will be sharing a common prayer," and from the atmosphere here in South Africa, it is clear the host nation is hoping for a historical victory for Africa at Soccer City.

- Mr Devo

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Thursday, 1 July 2010

Vuvuzela takes digital world by storm!

Photograph: Jon Devo

One of this World Cup's surprise news stories has been the controversial and infectiously popular vuvuzela horn. But after causing a global media storm, it appears that the vuvuzela has infiltrated the digital realm as well.

A Computer whiz kid from Poole in the UK has made a ‘patch’ that allows gamers to use the vuvuzela as a weapon in the arcade game classic DOOM.

The 15-year-old school boy, who goes by the online username “Ultraboy94fsr” uploaded a video of himself playing DOOM using the patch to Youtube.com. Within minutes, his video received 65 000 hits. After a few days, the video reached almost a million views, proving the vuvuzela’s popularity among the gaming community as well as football fans.

The vuvuzela has also attracted the attention of app developers who have jumped on the band wagon and created the – Vuvuzela 2010 – app for the iPhone and the newest must-have gadget, the iPad. The free app which mimics the distinctive vuvuzela sound was created by Dutch development team moblio.nl and has already been downloaded by over 3.5 million users worldwide.

The vuvuzela has been a feature of soccer in South Africa for decades and was inspired by the “Kudo horn” that was once used to warn and summon community members for gatherings.

South Africa’s tradition of blowing vuvuzelas at soccer games has sparked global outcries and complaints. Many called for a ban at the start of the World Cup due to the vuvuzelas apparently “ruining” the matches for TV viewers.

Some players and coaches have also complained that they cannot communicate effectively during the games, due to the sheer volume of noise created by the crowd blowing their vuvuzelas.

The sound has been compared to a swarm of angry bees and has also been accused of killing the stadium atmosphere as many other countries have a tradition of singing at soccer matches. This tradition, some claim, has been completely drowned out by the vuvuzela sound.

One thing is for certain though, the vuvuzela seems to be here to stay. Many foreign visitors to this year’s World Cup are taking them home as presents and overseas sales of the controversial horns are already in the millions. So if you can’t stand the sound of the vuvuzela, it’s safe to say, you’re doomed!

- Mr Devo

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