3 March 2010
When Nelson Mandela stood in Zurich on 15 May 2004, the day it was announced that South Africa would host the 2010 Fifa World Cup, “a dream came true,” Fifa president Sepp Blatter said during South Africa’s 100 day countdown celebrations. “Today, the dream is alive.”
Blatter heaped praise on South Africa’s preparations as the World Cup hosts celebrated 100 days before the 11 June kick-off of the first football World Cup on African soil on at a special event in Durban on Tuesday.
Speaking at the newly built Moses Mabhida Stadium, Blatter said that Mandela was the man “who has always believed that this country will organise and host a successful World Cup. This has been his dream.”
Blatter, South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke, CAF President Issa Hayatou, Local Organising Committee chairman Irvin Khoza, and 2010 OC CEO Danny Jordaan were among the dignitaries who attended Tuesday’s event.
Addressing the media at a press conference at the stadium, Blatter touched on a number of issues and reiterated his support for South Africa as it enters the home stretch in its preparations to host world football’s greatest showpiece.
‘It’s a love story’
“The Fifa World Cup in Africa is a love story – a love story between the African continent and myself which began when I was the technical director of Fifa,” Blatter said. “It has come a long way in a long time. It has been a road travelled with trust, confidence but with patience as well.
“When this country was awarded the World Cup, there was a lot of work to do. We had to convince people that one day we would give back something to Africa. Africa has given so much to the world and to the world of football.
“I’m very proud and very happy that this love story is coming to the ‘wedding celebration’,” Blatter said. “We are speaking about 100 days to go, but this all goes back to 17 May 1998, when I was campaigning for the Fifa presidency for the first time and I said that, ‘We have to bring the World Cup to Africa.’
“This is what I mean by having patience, as South Africa did not win the first time in 2000, when it lost by one vote to Germany, but with patience and perseverance you managed to win the right to host the World Cup in 2004.”
On doubts and scepticism
“Why is it that some people in this community do not believe in this dream? Let’s go and have this World Cup and we will discuss it at the end of July,” Blatter said.
“Doubts have been raised by some people. But there were never any doubts during or before the duration of this project. We never had any second thoughts, we never questioned our decision.”
On the legacy for Africa
“We have always said that this World Cup should and would leave a legacy for the African continent,” Blatter said.
“One of the projects that champions this cause is the ‘Win in Africa with Africa’ programme, in which Fifa has set aside a budget of US$70-million for several projects, including laying football turf all over the African continent.
“We also have the Football for Hope Centres which will operate in many African countries. It started here in South Africa with a beautiful Football for Hope Centre in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.”
‘Still a lot of work to be done’
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe reiterated South Africa’s commitment to delivering on the promises it made to Fifa
“There is still a lot of work to do to before 11 June,” Motlanthe said. “We have completed the stadiums, we now have to concentrate on some aspects like the movement of people during the tournament, as well as welcoming our visitors.
“We have to make sure that we show our visitors the spirit of ubuntu and make them feel at home.”