Nameless friends at the Barasti Beach Bar
It already started in the train on our way to the Barasti Beach Bar in Dubai. Hanging on in front of me in the aisle was a typical hipster, beautifully groomed goatee, covered in artful tattoos, but sporting a Springbok supporter jersey. My eyes fell on the word Jo’burg tattooed on his right ankle and I knew: today this man’s blood was pumping green and gold.
Not one of the avid rugby supporters in the office expected the Springboks playing in the final of Rugby World Cup 2019. When this became a fact, plans had to be made on where to watch the game. One suggested that we pool all our gin stashes (a very scarce commodity in a country where you cannot buy alcohol without applying for a licence), and watching in the hotel apartment, live streaming from South Africa. I suggested the hotel’s sport bar on the ground floor but this was vetoed outright because the cost of beers there would bankrupt us all.
The vote finally fell on the Barasti Beach Bar, close to Dubai’s famous Palm Jumeirah – the manmade palm tree development that reaches into the Arabian Gulf and that rumour has it, can be seen from outer space.
Getting to Barasti Beach was quite an effort. First you take the train, then the light rail and finally you walk (albeit not too far) in the blazing heat. But boy, once we got there the trek was more than worthwhile. Packed in front of the huge outdoor screen were Bok supporters of all colours and creeds – a family with a huge South African flag, all sporting dreadlocks, the group of rowdy gym bunnies and their boys, sounding as if they were all originally from Benoni, the pale office workers with their green and gold supporters’ t-shirts.
To be fair, the English supporters were also well represented. White golf shirts with a rose logo on the chest, red peeling noses from too much sun, thin white feet stuffed into sensible sandals. Heineken drafts firmly in hand, we were ready for the challenge.
God Save the Queen came first. Somewhere in my cell memory sensations of Boer War travesties made me quake. But then it was our turn. Barasti Beach Bar’s palm covered roof structure quavered as those in green and gold sang Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika as one man. As the behemoths battled it out on the field, friends were made in front of the big screen. We took a selfie with the couple with the flag, we joked with the bunnies from Benoni and boy, o boy, did we hug and kiss when the final whistle blew! There were quite a few damp cheeks as Siya Kolisi and Cyril Ramaphosa exchanged fist pumps and waves at the end of the game. And I’m sure the tears were not only the Heinekens talking.
As we left Barasti Beach Bar and walked towards the station, small pockets of supporters were singing Shosholoza. In a strange country in the desert it became clear to me: In the end, everything will be all right in South Africa. There are too many people around the world who love our country and who are willing to stand together when the fight is on.