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Beyond Soccer: South Africa's Situation

National Geographic

As soccer fans gear up for the World Cup "kickoff" this weekend, all eyes are on South Africa, this year's host. In a New Year's Eve speech last December, South African President Jacob Zuma remarked that 2010 would be the most important year for the country since 1994 — the year apartheid ended. "The year 2010," he said, "must be the year in which, for the first time, we all communicate positive messages about our country to the world. ... We have to put the culture of negativity behind us."

But maybe it's not that simple.

A story in this month's National Geographic magazine digs beneath South Africa's shiny soccer-centric surface. Alexandra Fuller's story, with images by renowned photographer James Nachtwey, reveals that although the nation is on the mend, the wounds of racism still break open at the slightest provocation. It's still violent, still divided and still struggling, but — at least in this article — a tragic story ends in forgiveness, suggesting that for many, there's still hope. And that hope, at least for Jacob Zuma, for now, is entwined with soccer.

For more soccer-related photography, check this out.