JOHANNESBURG: The dungeon-like bowels of the mammoth Soccer City stadium had the sunniest of visitors on Saturday. Normally the most sleepy of daily routine practices at the World Cup here, made all the more unbearable by the officious droning of the FIFA spokespersons, this time the media briefing met with a packed house. And Shakira showed just why she could beat U2’s Bono to the Nobel Peace Prize if it actually came down to that.
Switching effortlessly from Spanish to English to Spanish, lighting up Soccer City with her mega-watt smile, the singer called herself the Daughter of Africa. For someone whose ‘Waka Waka’ number, one which she will perform at the World Cup closing ceremony on Sunday, had met with some resentment since it was picked by FIFA as the anthem for the tournament over a host of African performers, this was the surefire clincher.
The happy-faced Colombian went a step further, saying that she felt an umbilical cord ties her with Africa. For someone who has had to dance to the number with immigration officials at the OR Tambo Airport here, or get caught in traffic on way to attending the Argentina-Nigeria game at Ellis Park, maybe Shakira was indeed striking a chord. “South Africa has enormous power in its people,” she said. “At this World Cup, the fans of this country have reflected the tolerance shown by Mandela,” said the singer.
Confessing to have turned into a football zealot, Shakira talked about the unifying power of the sport. “I have been enjoying the football World Cup like any other fanatic. I had never thought I would turn to the sports section of the newspapers first. Like music, now I understand the universality of football. Football is the coming together of different religions and races. It empowers people. They come together in front of the TV, they watch, they argue, they endlessly discuss it,” she said.
Claiming to be the sole South American representative, Shakira admitted to nurturing a soft spot for Spain. “Since I am a Hispanic I will be rooting for Spain. They have been a great team and the kind of football they have played this time has been pleasing to my eyes as well,” Shakira said.
“I like the way David Villa scores those goals. I like the way Pique plays. He’s a beautiful defender,” she listed the real reasons for supporting Spain. And then she added, almost in a squeal, “Oh yes, I like Messi too.” She then joked, “I really hope the octopus doesn’t get it wrong for tomorrow.”
Shakira seems to have become a regular fixture at the World Cup. After her ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ performance ahead of the 2006 World Cup in Berlin, this will be her second performance at the football extravaganza. Shakira revealed that she hit upon Waka Waka during her stay at her farm in Uruguay. “I was walking to the house from the barn and it suddenly came to me. I first recorded it with just the guitar and it sounded well,” she said. “The FIFA concert was one of the most emotional experiences of my career. This has been one of the happiest months in my life,” she said.