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Wrestling with a few home truths

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Dan Walker | 17:10 UK time, Friday, 11 June 2010

Well, we've been in South Africa for a few days now. Not long until we head out on the BBC bus, which I got a glimpse of for the first time earlier this week.

Many people have asked me if we are sleeping on it. The answer is 'no'. We are staying in B&Bs and little hotels along the way.

I reckon it is the greatest bus in history. That might be a bit strong but it must be in the top five, along with the one from Speed, the one Clint Eastwood drove in Where Eagles Dare, Cliff Richard's Summer Holiday love machine and the beauty from The Italian Job.

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I have been filming some behind the scenes stuff for the website and also planning the first Football Focus show for BBC World. You will not be able to watch it in the United Kingdom but it goes out to millions of people all over this globe of ours.

We have been to a township just outside Cape Town called Khayelitsha. Hundreds of thousands were forcibly relocated there back in the 1980s and it now has a population of 1.3m - bigger than Birmingham. It is the second biggest township in South Africa behind Soweto but the fastest growing.

Some of the houses are just two pieces of corrugated iron resting against a beam while others are far more substantial. Staggeringly, it is estimated that 20% of the residents are HIV positive.

We visited a scheme funded by Football for Hope and run by a company called Grassroot Soccer. The organisation offers a programme that teaches kids football skills and educates them about HIV and Aids.

The guy in charge says ignorance levels are incredible. Some of the local young men think that sleeping with a virgin will cure them of the virus while children can be ostracised if someone in their family is HIV positive.

We heard about Siya, a young lad whose mother and father both tested positive. His friends immediately stopped talking to him and playing football with him. For months, he spoke to no one.

Thanks to the scheme, Siya's friends were convinced he had done nothing wrong and was not contagious. Now he is back playing football with his mates everyday.

The place was packed with kids because South African schools have closed for six weeks in an attempt to reduce World Cup traffic. We drove past a high school in Khayelitsha that was covered in bullet-proof glass. There was a room on the ground floor with a massive yellow dot on the door.

Our guide told us it was a safety room just in case there was gunfire in or around the playground. The kids who cannot read are told to run to the yellow circle. It is a very different existence.

During our visit, there were smiling faces everywhere. Speaking to the children, it is clear the scheme is making a real difference. The assembled crowd went wild when the American who funds the programme turned up. I could not shake off the fact he was a dead ringer for Hulk Hogan. Even the accent was spot on.

Hulk Hogan lookalikeMeet the Hulk Hogan lookalike

I half expected him to launch into a speech about the "26-inch pythons". For those of you who are not au fait with the American wrestler, Hogan used that phrase to refer to his impressive biceps.

On a serious note, I think Khayelitsha highlights the real challenge for this World Cup. Many people say that unless a lasting difference is made in places like this, then the tournament cannot be considered a success.

As I was walking back from the supermarket this week, there was a poster on the wall with the following quote from Nelson Mandela: "Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is a protection of fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life."

South Africa is ready for the World Cup. Yes, there are dissenters, but the vast majority of people are excited and desperate for Bafana Bafana to do well. Many also hope that - as well as enjoying the football - the world will see that something needs to be done to address the country's growing problems.

If you want to follow the BBC bus this summer, then let me gently prod you towards Twitter. You can get regular updates and pictures at danwalkerbbc.


  • Comment number 1.

    Wrestling's fake, people.

  • Comment number 2.

    He doesn't look anything like Hulk Hogan!

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Dan, as i am au fait with the Hulkster i believe it was 24" pythons.

  • Comment number 5.

    RockingTheJoint, depends how you define 'fake'. Tell that to the family of Owen Hart or Darren Drozdov.

  • Comment number 6.


    Q - What is the connection between Nelson Mandela & Thierry Henry...?

    A - They both have experience of Robben Island

    Cheer Thad
    ps. Tell Ant to get the Crawley Town flag centre-screen...!

  • Comment number 7.

    Whilst I know this is a football blog, a comment on this wrestling is fake. All wrestling fans know it is fake, we are not thick but then Eastenders is fake and everyone still watches that. Surely anyone can see the skill and art in someone looking like they are being destroyed and and not actually being hurt by their opponent at the moves and co-ordination is first class. Strictly Come Dancing has lifts and choreography but no-one says that is all fake, why do we bother. It's all about good old fashioned story telling and drama. Anyway, its World Cup time and I am one excited football fan, 2 greatest events in the world 1) World Cup Final 2) Wrestlemania

  • Comment number 8.

    1. At 6:25pm on 11 Jun 2010, RockingTheJoint wrote:
    Wrestling's fake, people.

    Wow, really? My enjoyment of the product is now over. Thanks for opening my eyes pal!...

  • Comment number 9.

    ***Wrestling's fake, people.***

    Really? Thankyou for enlightening the wrestling fanbase with your wisdom.

  • Comment number 10.

    Controversial bus choices. Where's the one from the start of Bullseye? Does the Mystery Machine count as a bus, or is it a van?

    It's a shame that the focuses won't be available in the UK, it looks like you're covering some inspirational stuff. It would surely shut-up the naysayers who think it's just one big gravy train out there.

    As Cypress Hill said 'it's a fun job, but it's still a job'

    Ric Flair

  • Comment number 11.

    wow did someone say wrestling was fake damn someone told me that 12 yrs ago and i still love it the same why do you get some people who have nothing better to do in there sad lifes and go around telling everyone what they already know time to grow up get a life and just leave people to what they like cos were certainly not bothered to what the haters like

  • Comment number 12.

    I'm really glad you all think the size of Hogan's biceps or whether they hit each other in wrestling is important. 1 in 5 people in Khayelitsha have HIV. I'll say that again. 1 in 5 people in Khayelitsha have HIV. I sometimes think we miss the point of life.

  • Comment number 13.

    If you want to see the real Hulk Hogan here he is, appearing on Larry King Live:


  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Well you know something Mean Gene. When i was hanging and banging in Venice Beach California Brother, I switched on my television brother, and I watched Coronation Street Brother..Its fake brother!..I watched Eastenders Brother..Its fake Brother!..Scripted Programmes brother arent real Brother..and wrestling is the same, only we do our soap opera in front of 20,000 people brother. We know its entertainment brother, our fans knows it entertainment brother so treat my little hulksters again like idots brother then ill meet you on the mountainside brother and battle will commence. So then watcha gonna do when these 24 inch pythons run wild on you!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi Dan,

    Enjoyed your mini bus tour with the other Walker after the Uruguay v France game...two impressive conks on my big screen!

    One question I had about the hat you had - was that a swastika on the side? I can't believe it was but did look a bit like that from here.

  • Comment number 17.

    loving your (and the BBC in general) coverage so far, keep it up.

  • Comment number 18.

    Interesting trip to Khayelitsha, Dan. It makes you think that Fifa are really missing a trick with this World Cup not to be highlighting the education issues surrounding H.I.V/Aids in the local communities more. Instead of using those unbelievably bland brown livery boards around all the stadia they could use educational slogans dispelling some of the crazy ill informed rumours you spoke about or at the very least fill them with inspiring quotes such as the one from Nelson Mandela you also mention. With so many young eyes focused on the games it's a sin the opportunity isn't being taken. the way what's the Des Walker picture on the white bus for?

  • Comment number 19.

    Sir Harry (above) is right - I thought the same.
    Images here:
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 20.

    I would like to ask what is the cost to the licence payer of the bus, and running costs. Whilst the history/geography you have thus far reported may me interesting, what has it to do with the World Cup? It seems that the licence payer is funding a nice jolly for you and others on the bus. When presenting your piece it would be nice if you remembered that your target audience may have an IQ above the age of 7

  • Comment number 21.

    Can't believe ITV managed to not show the goal live thanks to showing a sponsor's ad! How many more mistakes are they going to be allowed to make? The worst sport's broadcasters you could ever hope to find...

  • Comment number 22.

    Is there anyway you could speak to someone highish up in the BBC who might be able to persuade (put pressure) FIFA to donate unsold tickets to charities?

    1/3 of Port Elizabeth stadium was empty yesterday, and if that is the same for the Ivory Coast game, it is an absoulte and total tragedy. Ivory Coast is a popular team here.

    The tickets could be given to the local newspaper, who would know best who to give the to.

  • Comment number 23.

    Sorry about the lack of comments comrades. Struggling to get on the internet at the moment. I emailed this to a mate on Saturday and hopefully it will go up at some stage.

    Good to see that the there is some early questioning of the licence fee going on - I love a bit of lively debate.

    Of course the stuff we are doing is relevant to the world cup. It's not interviews with players but i think it's good to know about stuff like the McMillan speech which - 50 years on - sees South Africa, Nigeria and others playing for themselves.

    I think we'll have to disagree on that one.

    I hope you are enjoying the tournament and the coverage. I shall stick another blog up on Monday.

    See you soon

    John Craven

  • Comment number 24.

    I really felt that SA had did a great job in spite of the rehabilitations the nation came all the way what said to be the most infected HIV nation to host the worlds biggest sporting event had definatley created the history as per the one documentary on the reuters there had been much talked about the SA's policies on the making the sporting nation by supporting such causes.

  • Comment number 25.

    Welcome to South Africa Dan. I understand that you are here to comment on the Fifa Soccer World Cup Tournament? That's great, but if you want make observations about SA culture or history, I suggest you check your facts first. Have a look at where you can read about "the vuvuzela founder" and "Sexwale (Minister of Housing)announces housing audit" and be sure to read the comments in the forum below the article, especially the one from "Yvonne". Someone has been feeding you some untruths. As a British Citizen residing in Cape Town for many decades, I doubt that I can return to England, squat in Hyde Park, and demand that the government build me a house for nothing? Can I?
    If you are looking for something to talk about, other than soccer, why not describe the restaurants and the pubs?

  • Comment number 26.

    good article. How bizarre that the schools have all been closed but we are seeing plenty of empty seats in many games! make the tickets available to the kids, by mugging touts if necessary.

  • Comment number 27.

    FIFA said they wouldnt give unsold tickets to charities. I think it is wicked.

  • Comment number 28.

    Seems to me FIFA haven't the wherewithal to organise 'drinking games' at a brewery. Scandalous. So far they've hardly sold any tickets to Africans despite waxing lyrical about it being all about Africa. Then they approved a terrible football from Germany which only Germans can control! Yesterday they decided its not worth asking North Korean players any questions that don't appear on the dictator-friendly list of permissable inquiries thats been approved. Basically they don't want to touch anything political with a bargepole but for such a prominent organisation it smacks of outward PCness/ inner cowardice.

  • Comment number 29.

    Khayalitsha is NOT a result of forced removals.
    Khayalitsha is almost entirely populated by people who have moved there on their own free will, almost all from the Eastern Cape.
    Khayalitsha barely existed during Apartheid and has grown exponentially since.


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