“Did your mother not teach you to be on your best behaviour when you have visitors?”
This was a social media post from local comedian and Good Hope FM breakfast show sports presenter Dalin Oliver over the weekend. It was, of course, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the taxi strike that engulfed Cape Town as the Netball World Cup was reaching its conclusion.
Oliver has a point.
Despite the many daily challenges facing our nation and its people, as the taxi strike has showcased, South Africa has traditionally been able to hide its problems from the global audience to stage spectacular and world class sporting events.
From the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the 2010 Fifa World Cup, and all the way to the recent ICC T20 Women’s Cricket World Cup, the professionalism of the local organising committee has always seen the Rainbow Nation pull together to put its best foot forward.
But this is where the Netball World Cup, being staged on the African continent for the first time, failed in its objective.
The appointment of a ticket service provider that was clearly not adept in meeting the demands of a major international event also hampered South Africa’s image in the eyes of many foreigners visiting our shores.
Then the exorbitant ticket prices set by World Netball, which started at R500 for the preliminary stages, simply blew away the local market.
But yet, somehow, and despite all these pitfalls, I am now a netball enthusiast, courtesy of the Netball World Cup being staged in my home city.
Being one of the lucky few to enjoy a courtside seat for every Proteas match – not all the accredited journalists were this fortunate – I was blown away by the speed, skill, agility, intensity and strength of the women on court.
There were plenty of aweinspiring moments, but I will remember none more vividly than when 38-year-old Proteas defender Phumza Maweni leapt through the air like an impala in the grasslands to intercept a pass that ultimately led to Nichole Taljaard completing a shot that levelled the scores against the Silver Ferns of New Zealand in the dying seconds of their Stage 2 clash.
The deafening roar inside the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) at that very moment will ring loud in the memory bank for a very long time.
For someone who has experienced the fanaticism of cricket supporters in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India, the cacophony of noise inside the CTICC was an out of body experience.
If raising the roof was ever meant as a literal expression, then this was it.
There is also no lack of irony that the Netball World Cup ran into Women’s Month in South Africa.
The players on court are heroines to all the little girls who have watched them over the past fortnight, the tournament fortunately broadcast both on SuperSport and the SABC.
The latter was crucial, particularly in the view of the ticket prices, for the Netball World Cup to be accessible to the masses.
The Netball World Cup may have missed its mark at critical junctures, but it also hit the bullseye in generating an awareness that sportswomen deserve centre stage like any of their male counterparts – and justifiably, the remuneration that goes with it.