Anele Ntshinga could hardly contain her excitement a week and a half ago when she gave birth to a baby girl at Johannesburg’s Rahima Moosa Hospital just 10 minutes after the opening match of the South Africa World Cup.
As Mexico took on her beloved home team, Bafana Bafana, in Soweto’s Soccer City stadium, Ms. Ntshinga did what any mother in such a situation would do. She named her daughter “Fifa," after the sporting body FIFA that governs world soccer.
“Is my baby really born at 4 o’clock?” she remembers asking the nurses, who nodded. “Wow, I have a World Cup baby.”
"I will be more than happy to explain it to her the day she asks: 'Mommy, why do I have such an unusual name?' ”
If one needed yet another sign beside the hooting of vuvuzela trumpets, the hundreds of thousands of soccer fans, the gleam in the eyes of hoteliers and restaurateurs, the extra jingle in the pockets of tens of thousands of waiters, and the empty streets at game time, then the naming of South African children with World Cup-themed names is certainly a sign of World Cup fever.
Perhaps the best sign of all is that South Africans – white and black, rich and poor – have something to be proud of, something to unite around.
The excitement is not restricted to black African families. In Bloemfontein, the heart of white Afrikaans-speaking conservatism and capital of the Free State, Charl and Riana Reinhardt gave birth to twins, whom they named “Bafana” and “Mexico.”
In certain communities of South Africa, the naming of children is an extremely important process, marking a child’s character based on the circumstances of his or her birth. Unlike Western cultures, where children often take on the name of a favorite aunt or grandparent, South African names are often descriptive of qualities to be aspired to.
In a typical day in Johannesburg, one might be assisted by a computer technician named Tolerance, tip a waitress named Beauty, do a kick-boxing class with a personal trainer named Glad, and pour over one’s bank books with a teller named Precious.
But major events, in sports or in politics, tend to witness a surge in names that come straight from the headlines. And for Africans, there can be fewer events to make one more proud than the first ever World Cup on African soil.
At Johannesburg General Hospital, the Tebogo family from Soweto also welcomed the birth of twins on the day of the opening match, whom they named “Soccer City” and “Ke Nako,” a Zulu-language refrain in local advertisements that means “It’s time.”
At Rahima Moosa Hospital, where baby Fifa is being passed around to relatives, a hospital nurse named Rosina Letlalo says, “The day will be such an unforgettable one for us not forgetting the little bundles who were born on this historic day."
As for the other FIFA – the International Federation of Football Associations – the birth of a baby that shares its copyright-protected and trademarked name was welcomed. FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer says she is excited about the news.
"Thanks for letting us know and we wish the family and the baby all the best," says Ms. Fischer in a statement. "We are excited about these names."
World Cup 101: