29 June 2009
The 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup drew to a close at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on Sunday night in a ceremony filled with music, colour, light and dance. But the passion reflected in the photos of fans, beamed onto a giant sphere floating above the pitch, was not staged.
The photographs, of the fans that filled South Africa’s four host stadiums during Fifa’s “Festival of Continental Champions”, reflected a nation that came together in a tournament that has given the country many reasons to smile.
As Nelson Mandela watched his great-granddaughter Zenani bringing the Fifa Confederations Cup trophy out onto the pitch following a thrilling final between Brazil and the USA, no doubt he was smiling too.
For over the past two weeks South Africa has shown the world, once again, what it is capable of.
It has also shown that the opportunity South Africa has been given to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup is about more than stadiums, pitches, roads and airports.
It’s about people, and working together for a common goal. It is about reasons to smile and cry and make some very loud noise. It is about the joy that comes from being part of 14 days of thrilling football.
“I have loved this tournament,” said 12-year-old Zenani, granddaughter of Nelson Mandela’s youngest daughter, Zindzi. “It has been so much fun – and Bafana Bafana have been playing, like, wow!”
As the stadium went dark on Sunday night, and the vuvuzelas went quiet, the melodic sounds of Africa filled the air. The voices of 150 choir members and the beats of 150 drummers bid the fans and the watching world goodbye.
But for the country, and the continent, this was just the beginning. In less than a year’s time, South Africa and Africa will welcome 32 teams, hundreds of thousands of fans and millions of television viewers back for the big one, the 2010 Fifa World Cup – and the drama, and the celebrations, will begin in earnest!