On 6 May the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, Prof. Cheryl de la Rey, and the Ambassador of Mexico, Mr Luis Cabrera, launched an exhibition titled “The Mesoamerican Ball Game” by the Mexican Embassy at the Mapungubwe Museum (Old Arts building, University of Pretoria).

In celebration of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the National Council for Culture and the Arts (CONACULTA), National Institute for Anthropology and History (INAH) and the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs and Embassy of Mexico, all participating Mexican institutions, brought the exhibition to South Africa. The exhibition shows the evolution of football over the centuries in Mexico.

In ancient Mexican culture, sport and recreation were normally linked to a religious ceremony and these activities involved playing with a ball. The exhibition explains this culture and showcases artefacts associated with this game. The exhibition includes figurines of ballgame players and a “stone ring” through which the ball was passed in order to score points or “rayas”. Sacrifice was also part of the ritual and people were decapitated or had their heart extracted for sacrifice to the deities and the Earth. The blood was supposed to feed the Earth and make it more fertile.

Prof De la Rey opened the ceremony by welcoming the Ambassador of Mexico and everyone present. She said that the university will play an active role in the FIFA World Cup and that “we take great pride in our sport and our arts and culture… the university is the only university which hosts four museums.” About the Mexican ballgame she said, “today’s love of the game (football) is rooted in the Mesoamerican games.”

The Ambassador of Mexico, Mr Luis Cabrera, said that it was an honour to be there. “The exhibition was specially conceived by the Mexican Institute for Anthropology and History in collaboration with the 2010 FIFA World Cup.”

After the ceremony the red ribbon was cut by Prof De la Rey and the Ambassador; guests could then enter the exhibition. Students can see the exhibition at the Mapungubwe Museum (Old Arts building) on main campus.

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