When history is made, it is not often that all its various manifestations are immediately noticeable. History was made in motorsport, and it was made in more ways than one, with South Africa and the rest of the continent at the centre of it.
Never before in the history of the premium international motorbike racing series, MotoGP, has an African won a race. But that became history when SA’s Brad Binder won the Czech MotoGP on August 9. Binder’s win was more than just a win, considering his being a rookie in the series, and winning for a team, KTM, that had never tasted a podium finish before, let alone a victory.
It is not difficult to see from Binder’s journey to this height of success that he has had to overcome all the hurdles that come with being African. Not only did he have to move to Europe to advance his career, he only managed to get a ride at the highest level at the rather advanced age of 24. This is what makes Binder’s victory not just a victory for the underdogs, but more importantly, a victory for hope. Hope that despite the adversities, South Africa and Africa at large can achieve victory in all the other spheres of life.
I say this without any sense of rhetoric, because there are greater signs that surround the making of this historic victory. When Binder crossed the line first, he did so riding bike number 33, a number he adopted only this year. “33″ is the same number in which a Dutchman (South Africa’s cousins, for better or worse), Max Verstappen, crossed the line first in the 70th Anniversary F1 race the same afternoon. In winning the race, he beat the invincible Mercedes-Benz for the first time this season, becoming the first and the only driver to do so. Talk about a victory for the underdogs!
In that same race, which took place at the Silverstone circuit in Britain, British driver Lewis Hamilton, an African by race, matched the all-time record of 154 podium finishes by the all-time great, Michael Schumacher. This podium finish allowed Hamilton to inch another step closer to beating all of Schumacher’s records to become an all-time great himself, while still remaining the only person of colour to ever race in F1. Talk about a victory for the underdogs!
To put the cherry on top in making this a special day for South Africa and Africa at large, August 9 marked Women’s Day in South Africa. Without throwing around words of patronage for women, it is common cause that without women, we would have no making of history to talk of.
So, Sunday August 9 2020 will go down in history as a day like no other in recent times for SA. It will go down as the day when the country, and indeed the continent, was nudged out of slumber and reminded of its potential to be great.
It will go down as the day in which the young Binder reminded us all that the apocalyptic tendencies we display in our handling of public affairs have no place under the South African and African sun. His victory calls for more investment into our future, for we have now seen the future and we know it is bright. It calls for more investment into us as individual members of the African society to follow the example of Binder to prove the world wrong about us and claim victory for the underdogs.
Gulatino is author of The Tail-End of The Tale: History of Bantu South Africa from Prehistory To-date (2014). Copies available on Amazon.com