Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Zuma: World Cup is uniting South Africa

The Soccer World Cup was uniting South Africa, much like the 1995 world rugby victory helped break down racial barriers, and it will leave a legacy for decades to come, President Jacob Zuma said on Sunday.

South Africa becomes the first African nation to host the world’s most watched tournament from Friday.

“The enthusiasm, joy and excitement that has engulfed the entire nation in recent weeks has not been witnessed since President Nelson Mandela was released from prison [in 1990],” Zuma said at a press briefing.

“This explosion of national pride is a priceless benefit of the World Cup tournament.”

Mandela led South Africa out of apartheid in 1994 but remains divided in many respects with most of the country’s wealth still in the hands of the white minority and some communities still split along racial lines.

Officials hope the tournament will have the same effect as the image of Mandela — who spent 27 years in jail under apartheid — did when he famously handed over the Rugby World Cup trophy to captain Francois Pienaar in 1995 wearing his Springbok jersey.

‘Something that we have never seen before’
Rugby has traditionally been a white sport in South Africa, while soccer is followed fervently by the black majority.

Zuma said the enthusiasm for the June 11-July 11 tournament reminded him of that day.

“Building up to the tournament we have seen something that we have never seen before,” he said, referring to thousands of people wearing shirts of the national side Bafana Bafana and flying flags from their cars and at homes.

A survey of 1&nbsp:000 South Africans, conducted for soccer governing body Fifa and released on Saturday, showed that 92% are proud of the country hosting the tournament, and 86% believe it will be a success.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter said the World Cup would leave a legacy for the whole continent, which was still being sidelined by richer nations, through football development and education projects.

Both Blatter and Zuma said they hoped Mandela would attend the opening ceremony and first match on Friday. Mandela turns 92 next month and is increasingly frail.

His office will not confirm he will attend and some observers say he is not well enough to be at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium for the match between South Africa and Mexico.

“Firstly, I think we all know former president Mandela has aged and for any aged person the manner in which you carry yourself has changed,” Zuma said, when asked if the Nobel Peace Prize winner would be there.

“That is a decision for President Mandela to make … if he is there it will be a bonus for this tournament. Indeed, we wish he will be there.” – Reuters

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Canna-business deal for Ingonyama Trust land

Foreign investment has been lined up for a joint venture with the Ingonyama Trust Board, which administers tribal land for the Zulu monarch

NPA ‘refuses’ to prosecute Oscar Mabuyane

The Hawks have accused the NPA of ‘dragging its feet’ despite voluminous evidence against the Eastern Cape premier

More top stories

ANC Durban election candidate shot dead while on door-to-door campaign

One other man was shot dead and two others were rushed to hospital with gunshot wounds

Rule of law drops globally, including in South Africa

Security and corruption prevents the country from ranking higher on the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index for 2021

Slice of life: ‘I can read nine or 10 books...

David van der Westhuizen, a street bookseller based at the KwaZulu-Natal Society of the Arts Gallery in Durban, tells Paddy Harper how he survives unemployment

South Africa opens up vaccinations for 12 to 17 year-olds

Vaccinology researcher Professor Shabir Madhi said young people were being vaccinated to reduce the number of people who could transmit the virus and the focus should instead be on people over the age of 50
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×