I come from a sporting nation.
South African blood runs green and gold each time our cricket players are at the wicket, our rugby players are in a stadium, or our soccer team takes to the field.
I have twice lived through the euphoria of my country claiming victory at a Rugby World Cup.
In 1995, people of all races took to the streets in unison — just one year after South Africa had held its first democratic vote post-Apartheid and Nelson Mandela came to power.
Strangers hugged, drivers abused the hooters of their cars, and some had forgotten to adorn clothes altogether as they exposed their bare bodies.
This unison is what Madiba had hoped for as his “Rainbow Nation”.
Twelve years later, similar scenes occurred when the Springboks once again lifted the Webb Ellis trophy at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.
More hooting, more hugging, thankfully more clothes.
When South Africa received the opportunity to host the Soccer World Cup in 2010, the country rose to the challenge.
Citizens of the world gathered together in fan parks, beer glasses were clinked as Xhosa mixed with German, Spanish and Dutch.
Who cared that South Africa’s own soccer team, Bafana Bafana, had not made it out of the group stages — the country had won in other ways.
On Saturday night, Israel had its own version of a sporting victory.
An exact 20 years after Dana International was crowned Eurovision champion in the U.K., Netta Barzilai repeated the feat in Portugal with her empowering song “Toy”.
No one in Tel Aviv cared that the results were broadcast at 2AM. No one cared that Sunday was a working day.
People left their homes in droves (I, too, joined the flock), as they made their way to Kikar Rabin where the words “Netta” and “Toy” were brightly displayed on the side of City Hall, and the brave decided to jump in the pool.
Israelis’ habit of hooting at drivers who don’t immediately move upon the traffic light turning green seemed to have all been in practice for the chorus which rang from cars in honour of Netta’s victory.
Israeli flags were draped across pyjama-clad shoulders as the sounds of chicken squawks were exchanged between strangers who were now bonded over the fact that they were no one’s toy.
Shouts of “B’shana haba b’Yerushalayim,” (next year in Jerusalem) elicited reminders of matza and glasses of wine, but mostly grins at the knowledge that Israel would be hosting next year’s Eurovision contest
On Saturday night, Israel won the World Cup.
They just didn’t realise it.