5 November 2009
“South Africa is capable of hosting this World Cup; people must not underestimate us,” Bafana Bafana and Kaizer Chiefs football great Doctor Khumalo told Fifa.com after a recent visit to Argentina and Uruguay.
“This is the reason why I am a 2010 ambassador,” Khumalo said. “I want to spread the message of the work that we are doing to the world.”
Khumalo was in South America as a 2010 Fifa World Cup™ ambassador to update journalists, business leaders and politicians on South Africa’s preparations for the tournament.
A man who has forever secured his place in South Africa’s history books for scoring the winning goal in his country’s first fully-fledged, completely representative international football match – against Cameroon in Durban in 1992 – Khumalo is also no stranger to Argentina. In 1995 he played for Buenos Aires football club Ferrocarril Oeste.
On his return to the South American country this year, it was obvious to Khumalo that South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup has had a profound effect on how people now view the country.
“There has been a major change in how people in Argentina see South Africa since I was there in 1995,” he said. “Before, they saw the country as a place of bush and animals with only rural areas, but now with South Africa hosting the World Cup, they see it as a first-class country capable of hosting major events.
“When I showed them pictures of the stadiums, you could see they were amazed, and I could tell they now knew that South Africa will host a great World Cup.”
Khumalo said he was surprised at the reaction to some of the preparations for 2010 – including the plans by the host cities to provide park-and-ride facilities to the stadiums.
“People were not aware of what a park-and-ride is when I presented it to them. They do not have this in their country. I went to a match while I was in Argentina, and people were walking three or four kilometres to the stadium for the game.”
Khumalo jokes that his presence in Argentina helped get the South American giants to next year’s World Cup.
“When I first arrived they had not yet qualified. I joked with the journalists there that they were struggling to get into 2010, but now they had an African intervention of hope – me as a lucky charm – and that they would qualify. A few days later, they did.”
Khumalo was lucky enough to attend the game between Peru and Argentina which Argentina clinched 2-1, giving them their lifeline in their World Cup campaign.
Now that Argentina have secured their place in South Africa next year, Khumalo is certain that interest is peaking in the country.
“Our embassy in Argentina is probably being bombarded with calls for more information since their qualification. I think many will come to watch their team and enjoy South Africa.
“It was a very successful trip, and people were impressed with what I had to tell them about South Africa and how we plan to host the World Cup next year,” Khumalo said. “Now they know that South Africa … is ready to entertain the world.”