22 April 2010
“What is happening in the country at the moment is a marvel to watch,” President Jacob Zuma said as South Africa celebrated the 50-day countdown to the 2010 Fifa World Cup. “This harmony should define us, and resonate in a wide range of spheres, even outside sport.”
Zuma was speaking in the Northern Cape provincial capital of Kimberley, where a carnival atmosphere ruled on Wednesday as South Africa marked the 50-day countdown to the first Fifa World Cup on African soil.
With floats, dancers, a marching band and hundreds of city residents in tow, a procession snaked its way through the streets of Kimberley as more and more joined in, before eventually reaching the Galeshewe stadium, where Zuma arrived to be part of the celebrations.
Zuma does the Diski Dance
Zuma got into the spirit of the 50 day celebrations by learning the Diski Dance, which many South Africans are adopting ahead of the World Cup.
It was a moment that Diski dancer Duran van Wyk (20) will never forget, as Zuma came up to him while performing the dance in front of thousands of spectators at the day’s main event. Taking him through all the steps that make up the World Cup dance, Van Wyk could hardly believe what was happening.
“It was like a dream, I never thought that something like this would ever happen,” Van Wyk said, adding: “He is a quick learner though.”
Once he had finished with the dance floor, Zuma addressed the gathered crowd at the stadium.
“We have spoken about the year 2010 for so many years in this country that it became synonymous with football and celebrations. But somehow it just seemed to be taking too long to come – until now,” Zuma said. “It feels almost like a dream to say that today marks exactly 50 days to go before the kick-off of the spectacular 2010 Fifa World Cup tournament in this country.”
‘The nation is seized with exhilaration’
For Zuma, the ever-increasing support from South Africans for the World Cup effort is transforming the country.
“What is happening in the country at the moment is a marvel to watch. The nation is seized with exhilaration and great anticipation. The flags and the colours of the country are in display all over, in the cars and in our houses.
“Football Fridays have been so popularised that most wish they were a daily indulgence.
“Taxi ranks, cafes, streets and literally every corner of the country becomes bright yellow on Fridays, a nation crazy about football and determined to make this tournament succeed beyond expectations,” Zuma said.
“It is heartening to see how the entire nation is united in support of our national team. This harmony should define us, and resonate in a wide range of spheres, even outside sport.”
Kimberley shows its spirit
Local Organising Committee CEO Danny Jordaan praised the spirited reaction from the residents of Kimberley, a city that will not be hosting any World Cup matches but will be hosting Uruguay at their selected base camp at the GWK stadium.
“You have proved that the World Cup is much more than the stadiums, more than the 64 matches, and more than just the host cities. It is a celebration around South Africa. This is a national event and a true nation-building moment.”
James Wechoemang, after listening to President Zuma’s address, said: “People in Kimberley are getting so excited – 2010 is here. Even though we are not hosting any games, the 2010 spirit is here.”
Fifteen-year-old Jacob Oliphant is another who is feeling the 2010 excitement.
“It is such a big party here today, the excitement is great, but it a pity that we are not hosting any matches,” Oliphant said. “But the people will follow the World Cup closely; everyone here loves soccer.”