Sport

World Cup 2010: Africa is calling

Staff Reporter

South African organisers of the 2010 World Cup, their ardour fuelled by the country losing to Germany for the 2006 edition, said at the World Cup handover ceremony in Berlin on Friday they have their hearts set on a jamboree that can transform the world's perception of the whole African continent. President Thabo Mbeki said the 2010 event will be one to remember.

South African organisers of the 2010 World Cup, their ardour fuelled by the country losing to Germany for the 2006 edition, said at the World Cup handover ceremony in Berlin on Friday they have their hearts set on a jamboree that can transform the world’s perception of the whole African continent.

Delegates from participating cities were proudly showing off their wares in Berlin to the international media, under the gaze of VIP guests including South African President Thabo Mbeki—welcomed against a backdrop of ululating supporters—and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Mbeki said the 2010 event will be one to remember, comparing staging the event with the ending of apartheid. “Some people didn’t believe us—but we kept that promise.”

Mbeki noted that, after the Fifa executive committee awarded the event to South Africa, the country’s leaders had sworn to make it a massive success amid the kind of scepticism about the nation’s future that had been voiced in the apartheid era about its ability to instil democratic values.

“We said we will host in 2010 the most successful Fifa World Cup and we will keep that promise,” he insisted, describing the tournament as “a beacon of hope”.

He added: “Football is all about hope—hope for a better world,” a pastime that will “touch the world and build a better future”.

Thabo Mbeki’s speech (PDF)

Download Mbeki’s speech at the World Cup handover ceremony

“We come from a place where football is not just a game but an enduring passion. Africa is ready, Africa’s time has come, Africa is calling. Come to Africa in 2010,” said Mbeki, urging fans to “celebrate Africa in all its magnificent splendour” and seize an opportunity to spread “human solidarity” as Africa emerges “from many, many centuries of great difficulty”.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter saluted the 2010 organisers for their tireless efforts in bringing momentum and “positive emotions” to the South African campaign.

“It is African day. Today is a day of joy and a day of hope,” said Blatter, turning his gaze to 2010.

“You can call it justice for African football, but also justice for Africa—for all the women and the men of this continent,” Blatter said, calling on South Africa to show off the beauty of its landscapes and depth of its cultures.

After seeing off what Blatter termed the “evil devil” of apartheid, he urged the South Africans to use the World Cup as a tool of development.

“I am optimistic for Africa. The whole world trusts you, the whole Fifa family—they say yes to South Africa, we trust South Africa.

“The South African World Cup will also be part of a big initiative we are taking in Fifa by saying, ‘Win in Africa with Africa,’” Blatter said, adding the sport has a duty to take on social responsibility in human development.

Mbeki also said his country needs German help in organising the 2010 World Cup.

He said hosting the World Cup provides a huge challenge for South Africa. “We are aware that it is a huge challenge that is facing us. We have had people in Germany studying the things that the organisers are doing in Germany.

“People like Franz Beckenbauer [president of the German organising committee] will be available to help us when this World Cup is over. I know they do not need to help us, but we need them to help us,” he said.

Mbeki said South Africa wants to show the world what the continent is able to do. “I am confident that we will host a terrific World Cup and that it will be one of the best,” he said.

He added that he believes the South African national side will do well in 2010. “We can even win the competition then.”—Sapa-dpa, AFP

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