With the FIFA World Cup in full swing, the world is turning to a phalanx of innovational features across all manner of media to see what’s afoot—and upon the crest of the massive communication wave rides a country in genuine need of the limelight: South Africa.
To write this article, I did what almost anyone searching for World Cup buzz does: turned to Twitter. I wanted to review the “Cala Boca Galvao” phenomenon, where Brazilians made a hashtag telling the loathed Brazilian fútbol commentator, Galvao Bueno, to shut up—a hash-tag that gained so much impetus in Brazil that it became a top-trending Twitter topic, confounded Twitter users world-wide, and prompted them to Google the phrase in such volume that it remained a top trending topic on both Google and Twitter for 3 days; I wanted to include the comments made by Twitterzens regarding the sign held up in the North Korea – Brazil match that read, “Kim-Jong-Il Thinks I’m at Work”; I wanted to see the incessant tweets made on #worldcup, I wanted to laugh at the comments made under the vuzuzela topic and get a feel for the healthy rivalry infused in the smack-talking Tweets. I thought all these things would provide good fodder to show how Twitter alone unites the globe around World Cup conversations.
I forgot one small thing: it was 9:45 in the morning, England was playing Slovenia and the United States was playing Algeria. With everyone rushing to the FIFA Twitium, Twitter was over capacity. What was I thinking?
The World Cup has always been known for its transcendental capabilities, but in a world replete with Google and Twitter, iPhones and Androids, streaming feeds and Apps, the border-defying potential takes on colossal dimensions.
The numbers tell a lot:
Univision, a Spanish-language television network in the U.S., received record-breaking turnouts, generating 108 million page views and 14 million visits across all interactive platforms by June 18, eight days into the tournament. The Univision Mobile app alone served 24.5 million page views and more than 5 million visits by the same date. Each day of the tournament, Univision has posted record-breaking traffic numbers across the board, more than doubling the traffic of the 2006 World Cup.
For the first 14 matches of the tournament, ESPN and ABC had an average of 3.35 million viewers, a 64 percent increase since the 2006 World Cup. The match between the U.S. and Slovenia was the most-watched soccer telecast in the history of ESPN.
Nearly half a million FIFA fans on Facebook have tuned to the ESPN World Cup page to read reviews, chat, post comments and play with the interactive applications.
Another mammoth market was opened for the first time when the pan-Asian ESPN-Star network bid $40 million to show all the matches in South Asia.
And more than ever FIFA fans have been carrying the coverage on their hips. ESPN Mobile, one of dozens of apps made to chronicle the tournament, generated 1.8 million World Cup video views from June 11-18. Of course, this doesn’t even factor in smartphone apps from Goal.com, Univision, The Telegraph and Webdunia, to name some of the most popular.
These apps allow people to watch live video, read streaming feeds, learn about the teams and players, create brackets and share information and comments across sites like Twitter, Facebook, Delicious and the like.
For South Africa, a country that put its hopes in the great game to change their image in the collective global perception, the ramped up coverage by networks, the mobile exposure of texts, photos and streaming, and all of the conversations shared by millions of people across thousands of platforms online couldn’t have come at a better time.
With an eye to history, World Cup 2010 organizers recall a World Cup victory helping to distance West Berlin from the vestiges of war in 1956. They recall the 1978 tournament hosted by Argentina, when a military junta cloaked its repressive regime with the fanfare of the World Cup. And with these remembrances they are reminded of the influence wielded by the great game.
Beyond the influx of tourism and cash ($3.6 billion worth according to South Africa Tourism officials) South Africa hopes for a collective unity to come to the country that has been racked by social discontentment and xenophobia in the near past.
Indeed, the stakes are high for South Africa, the first country on the African continent to host the tournament, and the breath of the citizens, perhaps more than everyone else’s in world, will be held for the outcome of “the great game.”