Rainbow warrior— South Africa


In the first of a series on World Cup players, nations and managers, Monocle looks at South African Matthew Booth. He’s an unlikely poster boy for the tournament but his tough tackling and marriage to a top black fashion designer mean he has the popularity and power to unite the nation.

2010 World Cup, Apartheid, Football, South Africa

When visitors watch South Africa’s ­national football team play for the first time there is an uncomfortable moment when the ball approaches the only white man in the side. Boos ring out across the stadium. This doesn’t appear to be the post-apartheid rainbow nation the television adverts promote. Or is it? The overwhelmingly black crowd may sound like they are jeering, but they are actually cheering. The word they yell is “Booth”, strung out for several seconds, celebrating the man who has become the unlikely face of South Africa’s World Cup…

South Africa - Highs and lows

World ranking: 85
Number of times qualified: Two (1998, 2002); they qualify automatically as hosts for 2010.
Highest finish: First round (1998 and 2002).
Average salary of a premier league footballer: €1,300 to €1,600 a month.
Worst football moment: South Africa was banned from international contests until 1992 after the end of apartheid.
Best football moment: South Africa wins the African Nations Cup on its first attempt in 1996.
National football heroes: The political prisoners, including current president Jacob Zuma, who established a football league on Robben Island in 1966.


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