WE ARE really a nation of schizophrenics - and I mean that in the most complimentary way imaginable.

WE ARE really a nation of schizophrenics - and I mean that in the most complimentary way imaginable.

One minute we are so polarised and at each other's throats about our differences. Often our differences about what's best for our nation and our preconceived ideas about each other cause so much hurt and retard every effort to reconcile and build the nation.

I am sure you too have at times shaken your head in utter despair when you witnessed fellow South Africans doing their utmost to destroy others.

From corrupt politicians and businesses stealing from the poor to ordinary citizens behaving like maniacs on the road, we have clearly perfected the art of making life miserable.

And then one day we wake up and realise the collective dream of the nation is at stake unless we unite.

With the World Cup starting today, South Africans have done nothing more than what was expected of them. For just one moment we have come out of our slumber, cynicism and negativity and decided to give this country our best.

Sure, we have doomsayers and those who, despite evidence that an event of this nature is awesome for the psyche of a nation, will not come to the party. That's okay. In a democracy your buy-in is not compulsory.

Two days ago the streets of South Africa were not recognisable. Blue and green blended with our African skyline. Our flags, symbols of our identity, hung from rooftops and fluttered from cars and buildings.

And, of course, the vuvuzela made a deafening noise in the open air.

Black and white, big and small, young and old, the haves and the have-nots, all came together for one moment to reflect the hopes and dreams of a nation so hungry for a new chapter, so desperate for an invigorating experience.

This World Cup will not solve our problems and will not make us decent people overnight.

That our socioeconomic crisis and politics of hate will still be a feature of our lives after the soccer spectacle is not worth debating.

There was never a promise that the World Cup would give all the answers to life's burning questions.

But it is a palliative to our wounds, a rebirth of some sorts and a reminder that we are a great nation, dysfunctional at times, but great nonetheless.

Even in our personal lives we do not stop marking and celebrating great achievements simply because we've gone through trying times.

Trouble is an inevitable part of life and the best we can do when it visits us, is hold our heads up high, look it squarely in the eye and soldier on.

But when an opportunity to laugh and play presents itself, we open our arms and seize that moment.

This World Cup is significant in many ways - it is the first on African soil and comes at a time when we are still lucky enough to have our icon Nelson Mandela in our midst.

It is also symbolic if we think back to what sport has done for our once racially divided nation. The 1995 Rugby World Cup took place at a time when South Africa was crawling out of the darkest pit.

Though we had held our first democratic election the year before, we were still learning to build relations of trust and not look at each other with fear and suspicion.

The victory of the Springboks was a victory over the hearts and minds of millions of South Africans and gave us a glimpse of what we can achieve in the future, if we put our common humanity ahead of our differences.

If it could happen then, it can happen now. Seen through the prism of time, that sporting event was balm to our wounded nation.

With the big kickoff today, Bafana Bafana are in a privileged yet unenviable position.

It is an honour to serve your nation yet a burden to carry the hopes and dreams of so many.

Whatever our differences, whatever the outcome of this task ahead, this World Cup and our team, have given us an opportunity to shout: "Viva, South Africa! Viva!"