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The World Cup As A Symbol Of Hope In South Africa

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The World Cup As A Symbol Of Hope In South Africa

The World Cup As A Symbol Of Hope In South Africa

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And for those of you who are following the American team in the World Cup, they're playing Algeria today.

Singer and commentator Angelique Kidjo is watching. She lives in New York now, but she's from Benin, in West Africa, and she went home to Africa for the World Cup.

Ms. ANGELIQUE KIDJO (Singer/Commentator): If I tell you about my seven brothers, you will understand why soccer was so important in my early life. In order to complete the team, and though I was petite, I would always end up as the goalkeeper.

I remember, when it was announced that the World Cup would take place in South Africa, Nelson Mandela cried. I felt, right away, it was a turning point for my continent.

I sing all over the world, and I am trying to show the beauty and richness of Africa to all kinds of different people. I spend all my life fighting against what the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie calls the danger of a single story, of African wars and poverty. Even when I traveled to South Africa for the World Cup, I saw the headlines on the television at the airport: One of the highest crime rates in the world, and the Colombian team robbed in a hotel room. The media wants to get back to that single story.

But as soon as I landed, I felt the enthusiasm, joy and pride in the air. I went to the Soccer City Stadium for a press conference about the World Cup Kick-off Concert. Contrary to the predictions of the Western media, the great building that looks like a giant calabash was ready in time for the opening match.

Instead of making a speech at the press conference, I followed the traditions of Benin and decided to sing a thank-you song.

(Singing in foreign language)

(Speaking) The sound whirled around in the empty stadium. At the concert itself, I sang the old classic "Move On Up" with John Legend. Exactly 40 years ago, Curtis Mayfield wrote it for the African-American youth. John and I dedicated it to the youth of Africa.

(Soundbite of song, "Move On Up")

Mr. JOHN LEGEND (Singer/Songwriter): (Singing) Remember your dreams are your only schemes, so keep on pushing up. Keep on pushing...

Ms. KIDJO: Then came the most touching moment of my trip. After my performance, I sat next to Desmond Tutu on the side of the stage, as he waited to make his speech. And I asked him what he would tell people who doubted South Africa could successfully host the World Cup.

Archbishop DESMOND TUTU (Anglican Church of South Africa): We just want to say we can do it. Yes we can, says Obama. Now it's our turn to say we can.

Ms. KIDJO: And we will.

Archbishop TUTU: And we will.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KIDJO: The next day, I couldn't help blowing my loud vuvuzela when South Africa scored the first goal during the opening match.

(Soundbite of vuvuzelas)

Ms. KIDJO: The first goal of the World Cup went to Africa. I took this as a good omen for my beloved continent. I know a sports event will not change the future of Africa in one day, but you have to agree, it is such a powerful symbol of hope. My continent is on the cover of The New York Times now, not because of conflicts and abuses, but because of joy and sport and excitement.

Now I'm back in North America, and everywhere people ask me: How was it? How was South Africa? Even though the African teams have not done so well since that first goal, I still have a big smile. I'm so proud to have been the witness of this great moment for my continent.

(Soundbite of song, "Move On Up")

INSKEEP: Angelique Kidjo's most recent CD is "Oyo." She will sing in South Africa next month at the World Cup Finals.

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