Going to the World Cup? Do the Diski

BY Tom LeGro  May 12, 2010 at 11:12 AM EST

The first in a series of stories about the upcoming World Cup in South Africa, which begins June 11.

world_cup_logo.jpgFour weeks remain until the start of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa and final team rosters have yet to be announced, but soccer fans around the world are already beginning to celebrate. And as if those fans needed help getting excited, South Africa’s tourism office has created the Diski — a dance to commemorate the tournament, the first ever World Cup on the continent.

“There’s a style in which South Africans play soccer. It’s always flair-y, it’s always showy and it’s all about getting the grandstand to support whoever has the ball,” Sthuthukile Zungu, president of South African’s tourism office for North America, told Art Beat.

Dancers of the Diski, which means “soccer” in South African township slang, move to a beat and dance with an invisible soccer ball — juggling it left to right, bouncing it on their heads and balancing it on their backs in a move called “the Table Mountain.”

[Videos after the jump.]

In developing an advertising campaign for the World Cup, it seemed natural to honor the sport through two of South Africa’s other mechanisms of survival and hope, song and dance, Zungu said. “Come see it for yourself, come feel it for yourself,” go the lyrics, an allusion to the vibrant culture that endured and even prospered despite decades of struggle under apartheid. As soccer became a South African pastime, poor communities would form improvised soccer balls from bits of rolled cloth or plastic bags to play with during matches.

“Rather than just do a campaign about the technical things like the stadiums or the infrastructure, we wanted to let people into the soul of who we are as a people,” Zungu said.
“We dance and sing when we’re happy and we dance and sing when we’re sad. We danced and sang when we struggled and we do the same today, as we try to make life work in South Africa.”

South African President Jacob Zuma had the crowd in stitches at a recent rally as he tried to learn the dance. Matt Harding, a YouTube dance celebrity, flew to South Africa to do the Diski in front of some of the nation’s famous landmarks.

In Falls Church, Virginia, the 10- and 11-year-olds of the 97 Fusion girls soccer team laced up their cleats and danced, earning them a pre-World Cup trip to the host nation sponsored by the South African tourism office.

“They did the Diski in the airport before they left, on the beach in Cape Town, they performed it for the [South African] women’s national team, and they had a Diski-off with the team they competed with,” said 97 Fusion Coach Stacey King. “On days when they didn’t have to, they would just start doing the Diski anyway.”

Want to do the Diski or perfect your Table Mountain? Watch this training video: