Johannesburg, Sunday 11th July. 5.30 alarm call as I’m on the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC) ‘Weekend Live” at breakfast time to talk about the leaders’ summit later today, focused on getting an education for every child as a legacy of the World Cup. It’s the big moment for the 1GOAL campaign.
In the studio, the presenters are all wearing 1GOAL t-shirts. It’s amazing. The SABC is Africa’s biggest broadcasting organisation and it has thrown its weight behind the campaign, asking its viewers to add their names in support. The other day I flicked through three SABC channels and 1GOAL was being featured on all of them at once.
Then we’re off to Soweto for one last visit to the Winnie Ngwekazi Primary School, which has been a hub for the campaign over the last six weeks. This time we’re meeting the British Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, who is here for a brief visit on his way to the summit. The arrangements for the summit have been (how do I put this…?) unpredictable, and it hasn’t been easy for leaders who were not already planning on being in South Africa to actually get here. Credit is due to him – he told us before the election he would take this campaign seriously and he has.
The 40 children in the school today have also put themselves out — it’s Sunday, and many have come straight from church. They give Andrew Mitchell a rendition of their 1GOAL poem (the only poem I know to include the line ‘1GOAL is an initiative’). He talks about how he was in a school back home in Birmingham a few days earlier where the children presented him with a giant football scarf made up of 1GOAL messages to the world’s leaders. From Selly Oak to Soweto, the message is the same.
Before I leave an older man shakes my hand and says knowingly, “Adrian Lovett!” Yes, I say, desperately trying to think where we might have met before. Turns out he is the husband of the school principal and he has just seen me on TV. “You,” he tells me in grand, Mandela-like tones, as if conferring on me a great honour, “have just been speaking to the entire nation!” He has made my day.
Then we’re in the minibus and off to Pretoria for the summit itself. Our extra special passenger is Nthabiseng Tshabalala, our 12-year-old ambassador from the school. We stop for McDonalds drive-thru and hit the motorway, the bus buzzing with the team making final arrangements, phoning ahead to our colleagues who are already there checking out the venue. One of them sends back a photo on his mobile of the top table with namecards already laid out and we have confirmation for the first time of some of the leaders who will be there.
Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, of course. Mwai Kibaki, the President of Kenya. The Dutch Prime Minister. The German President. The Chair of the African Union. FIFA’s Sepp Blatter. The head of UNESCO. There is some relief on the bus that it wasn’t all a figment of our own imagination. We really do have a summit. Meanwhile, Nthabiseng sits quietly, looking out the window.
We arrive to see the welcome sight of our 1GOAL school bus and the huge 1GOAL white letters, which in the last 24 hours have been turned from white to yellow. Our team have plastered them with some of the thousands of yellow cards — our warning to world leaders — that have been sent in over the last few weeks. They look fantastic as they are placed on the side of the road just at the entrance gate to the President’s Guest House, where the summit is to take place.
I go into the grounds to do a live interview on Al Jazeera and then on into the building. Some participants have begun to arrive. Suddenly Desmond Tutu is there, and the goodness seems to fill the room so much it bursts through the windows. Nthabiseng knows who he is so we go over and say hello. I shake his hand and mumble something about being ‘such an inspiration’. He must hear that a hundred times a day. Then he smiles for the camera and Nthabiseng lights up too.
As the main leaders arrive we notice a face among them whose name card was not on the table earlier, but it is now. It is Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe. How did that happen?
Then we are underway. This is not quite a summit in the G8/UN sense, where leaders sit around a table facing each other and talk to one another. Here they are on a platform and each delivers a contribution to the audience. But some of the remarks are pretty substantial — they address the unequal access to education children have, depending on their gender, ethnic group and so on, the effect of the global financial crisis on education, the need for the UN summit in September and the G20 in November to address the issue.
South African football captain Aaron Mokoena gives a strong address on behalf of 1GOAL. He speaks really well. I am trying to do four things at once: listen and take notes, tweet updates, film the best bits on my flipcam and keep an eye on Nthabiseng. Toward the end, as the summit declaration they have all signed up to is being read out, one of Zuma’s aides goes over to her and asks her if she wants to read out the letter she has written to world leaders.
She hadn’t been expecting to speak and I am anxious to check she’s not feeling pressured, but she doesn’t hesitate. She walks up to the podium and delivers her speech, word perfect. My only contribution is to spot that she needs something to stand on so that she can be seen over the top of the lectern. I grab a flight case from the startled sound man at the back and thrust it on stage just in time. The rostrum of Prime Ministers and Presidents seem remarkably relaxed in the face of a guy coming at them at speed with a large metal box.
Minutes later, Nthabiseng and Aaron hand over the big yellow card, representing the 14 million people who have added their support to 1GOAL in recent weeks, and the summit is over. The declaration doesn’t say all we’d like it to, but it is a strong call to action for the international community, urging them to prioritise education in the coming months. We give it a cautious welcome.
As the leaders file out, the president of the Global Campaign for Education, Kailash Satyarthi, pulls off a coup. One member of our team calls it the greatest blag of all time. Kailash gets on the bus marked for Heads of State (he is a president after all) which is whisked off to the super-VIP zone at the World Cup Final. So Kailash has the following six hours or so with a captive audience of some of the most powerful politicians in Africa and beyond, engaging them in deep discussion about Education for All and how they plan to get every child into school. Amazing. And happily (at least until the 116th minute) no entertaining football to distract them either.
On the subject of which… perhaps it was inevitable that after 64 games, 32 teams, penalty dramas, seven-goal wipeouts, African heartache, goal-line controversy… that in the end, thanks to Andres Iniesta, the 2010 World Cup really was won by… 1GOAL. Thank you South Africa. Maybe the football fell a little short, but the welcome and the spirit could not have been better… and maybe the legacy really will change the world. (And I’m not talking about goal-line technology).