Thank the youth of 1976 for the South Africa 2010 Fifa World Cup today

By Christine Davis, AAYMCA communications volunteer
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Christine Davis, AAYMCA communications volunteer
On 16 June 2010, International Day of the African Child, amidst

Africa's 2010 Fifa World Cup frenzy, the Africa Alliance of YMCA's

can't help but look back on history and give an appreciative nod in

awe to the youth this day marks and celebrates.
International Day of the Africa Child is celebrated every June 16 as

a testament to the power of children's and youth voices and action.

It is in fact, an international reminder, that on 16 June 1976 in

Soweto, South Africa, a peaceful march by South African school

children turned violent and become a significant contributor to the

eventual decline of South Africa's Apartheid system.

It seems remarkable then that a little over 30 years later, a new

generation of African children and youth are marching to a different

song on the streets of South Africa during the 2010 Fifa World Cup

because of the sacrifices made by other children on this date. They

clutch and call on their vuvuzelas, clothed in their country's

colours, faces flag-painted as they march through streets and

stadiums calling support for their national teams and if their team

isn't playing, calling support to any African team that is.

Soccer is Africa's biggest sport. It is played by the poor and the

wealthy across race, culture, gender and religious differences in

schools, streets and stadiums throughout Africa. It is a sport that

relies on the contribution the one can make to the many and the

support the one can provide in achieving the goals all strive for.

For the first time on African soil, Africa's favourite sport is being

played by Africa's youth, on the world's most important international

stage and the youth of Soweto in 1976 are in large part responsible

for that.
Without the 1976 Soweto Uprising, there is little doubt that

international pressure for a South African regime change would not

have been as forceful or effective. The state sanctioned murder of

hundreds of children at the hands of South Africa's police force

acted as a powerful visual call to action and intensified the ongoing

international embargo's placed on South Africa's economy.

The youth of 1976 understood the pressure of the world they were

fighting against. They understood their voices would be silenced and

made invisible by the state-controlled media, understood that the

politics of the time would not listen, understood even that the sheer

numbers of their voices would act as a threat and that political

response would be swift and unforgiving. But, the youth understood

also, that the quality of life they led was dictated and determined

by a carefully orchestrated system of controls and limitations. They

were subject to the biased and manipulative influences of a powerful

few who would never allow them to experience a full citizenship to

the country within which they were born. Yet, despite all they were

facing, they stood, marched and demanded change, and received it.

Through their acts, Africans throughout the continent are now able to

watch their national teams compete and challenge each-other, and go

further by supporting all African teams who battle against countries

across from Africa's oceans.
New media technologies in 1976, such as televisions which are

commonplace in many households now, worked against South Africa's

tight control of the internal press and globally distributed now

famous images of children, still wearing their school clothes, as

they ran frightened and carrying the bleeding and broken bodies of

their fallen friends from their police. The voices, images and cries

of the fallen hundreds and their need for a better education system

were carried to a world-wide audience. The voices of the African

youth, their message of peace met with brutality, became the symbol

of the inherent power youth represent, of a need to move youth from

subjects of control and manipulation to fully recognised and

incorporated citizens working towards a betterment of society for

all. Those same media technologies, evolving into today's free social

media platforms have become the spaces youth themselves can control.

In the end what began as little more than a peaceful march by youth

speaking out against an inferior education became a significant push

in the fall of an unjust system. Today, in part because of those

youth, the world convenes on African soil in a democratic space to

peacefully compete, but also to celebrate the best their countries

have to offer. Today, Africa's youth showcase their pride at their

citizenship and their belonging to countries that have learned

through the actions of generations of youth before them, to accept

and nurture their power.
The Africa Alliance of YMCA's salutes the past youth of Africa on

this day and pays tribute to them for shaping our understanding of

the power youth play as active citizens. We celebrate the positive

contribution Africa's youth and children are currently making for

positive change in our continent and commit our movement to continue

our efforts to transform youth from subjects to citizens.