Betrayed by a great white lie
It's time to put an end to political correctness. From now on, this column will be fearlessly non-PC. In other words, it will put the boot into easy targets solely on the basis of ignorance and prejudice. This week, Africans.
You couldn't make it up, could you? There was a major sporting tournament in Africa and the security was so poor that a bunch of armed terrorists were able to climb over the wall into the area where the competitors were staying. Better again, the terrorists were actually helped over the wall by a group of athletes returning from a night on the beer. God bless their simple souls.
Next thing the local police decided to try and rescue the hostages. Only they forgot to tell the TV crews not to film them as they were doing so and the terrorists were able to watch the cops trying to sneak up on them live on television. So that didn't work. Africans, eh?
Finally, the terrorists brought their hostages to the local airport where the authorities decided to mount an ill-conceived rescue attempt. But, in another comical example of third world incompetence, the snipers positioned at the airport had no radios with which to keep in contact with the operation's planners and had no night sights on their rifles. The whole thing went haywire and all the hostages got killed. Unbelievable.
And do you know the worst thing of all? The right-on brigade said that, despite this disaster, the next major world sporting tournament should be held in the very same African country. It's PC gone mad. And this column is sufficiently racist (note to sports editor, replace racist with courageous) to point this out.
Actually, the sequence of events I have just detailed didn't happen in Africa at all. It happened in West Germany during the 1972 Munich Olympics. The athletes who helped the terrorists over the wall were not clueless Africans but clueless Americans. And the bungling and incompetence were European through and through. Despite this, there was no move to take the World Cup finals, which the country was scheduled to host just two years later, away from West Germany.
Compare this with the many suggestions over the past week that the attack on the Togo team bus in Angola places a question mark over the wisdom of holding this year's World Cup finals in South Africa. Whereas a massacre in West Germany was not held to reflect badly on the West Germans, an attack in Angola is held to reflect badly on South Africa. 'Coz they're all the same over there, savages, innit?
Cabinda, where the tragic incident, occurred, is almost 2,000 miles from Johannesburg. This is around the same distance as from Belfast to Athens, Moscow and Istanbul, all cities whose inhabitants would perhaps have been upset had they been judged unfit to host sporting events because of the activities of the IRA and UVF.
But when it's Africa logic goes out the window. Our logic, that is. Hence the statement by Hull City manager Phil Brown: "I am appalled. That puts a question mark against next summer's World Cup. You simply cannot put the safety of officials and fans at the slightest risk. That is totally unacceptable." There were other examples of bluff English common sense from the Daily Mirror, "a disaster for the forthcoming first-ever World Cup in Africa," and the Daily Telegraph, "Africa's dream is in tatters."
You can always rely on the Daily Mail on these occasions. It accused the head of South Africa's organising committee Danny Jordaan of getting on his "high horse" by pointing out that Angola is a different country from South Africa and revealed that in South Africa "stopping at a red light could be your final decision on earth," while shamelessly using the tragic deaths in Cabinda to rehash the argument that South Africa's high crime rate makes it unworthy of holding the World Cup.
There's no getting around the fact that South Africa is a violent place. Cape Town, for example, was third last year on Foreign Policy magazine's list of 'murder capitals'. Yet New Orleans was in second and there are many Irish tourists who would tell you they had one of the greatest holidays of their lives there. Moscow is in fifth and fans of teams involved in European football competition have been coming and going from there over the last decade. In Cape Town, "the city's murders usually take place in suburban townships rather than in the more upscale areas where tourists visit. According to the South African Police Service, most crimes happen between people who know one another." It is, by and large, the old story of the poor killing the poor.
I can remember my parents spending a very enjoyable fortnight in Detroit when it was murder capital of the world in the mid-1970s. And I can remember hopping forward and backwards across the border as a youngster to football matches when the likes of the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph painted the North as a war zone inhabited almost entirely by psychopathic, fanatical, mentally subnormal savages. These days they reserve that description for Africans and Muslims.
According to the Daily Mail, they won't just rob you over there, they'll gouge out your eyes while they're at it. I remember being mugged myself once, in London. But that was okay because my assailants were white Englishmen so I had the consolation of being terrorised in a civilised European manner.
There is one compelling reason why Irish people should take issue with this lazy linking of South Africa and Cabinda. And that's because we know what it's like to be stereotyped in this way. In 1972, both the Welsh and Scottish rugby teams refused to travel to Dublin because of the war in the North. Back then we were regarded as being at the heart of darkness. The English rugby team of the time made the decision to play in Lansdowne Road. It was a gesture greatly appreciated, not least because had they followed the example of their neighbours, we could have been facing a prolonged shut-out.
Everything the Daily Mail and its ilk say about Africa they once said about Ireland. I don't know about you, but I take that personally.
Terrible things do happen in Africa. But Africans have about as much chance as matching Europe in the Savagery World Cup as they do of winning its footballing equivalent.
Because here's something else about the 1972 Olympics and the 1974 World Cup. They took place in a country which less than three decades earlier had been operating the extermination camps of Auschwitz, Treblinka and Belzec among others. There would have been former guards from those camps enjoying their day out at the match and not thinking about the gas chambers at all. German people. White people. European people.
And still we talk down to Africa.
Next week, Travellers.