13 July 2010
The people of South Africa were the “true stars” of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, uniting to prove to the world that the country and the continent was capable of hosting a world-class event, says President Jacob Zuma.
Speaking at a media conference in Johannesburg on Monday, Zuma said South Africans had proved the doomsayers, who had been warning football fans to avoid South Africa, resoundingly wrong.
The world had been warned to expect high levels of crime, unfinished stadiums and a lack of accommodation, but what football fans found when they came to South Africa was vastly different.
“They came and discovered that we are a winning nation of very humble, hospitable people,” Zuma said. “They learned too that we are very efficient organisers and planners.
“We did it. We did it well. We did it successfully, but we did not do it alone. We did it with Africa and with the support of the world.”
Humanity, friendliness and warmth
Describing South Africans as the true stars of the tournament, Zuma said: “There are certain things that you cannot buy or create. Key among these for us is humanity, friendliness and warmth of the South African people.”
The President commended South Africans for making the World Cup a powerful nation building tool, saying he had been inspired by the explosion of national pride during the tournament.
Zuma also thanked international fans for the energy and commitment they had shown in filling the stadiums and supporting their national teams.
World, this is your home
“This has been the start of a lifelong friendship. We invite all our visitors to return soon to explore South Africa further. This is your home,” he said.
The President also singled out South Africa’s security officials for “proving to the world that we mean business when it comes to maintaining law and order”.
He then went on to express his gratitude to the players and coaches of all the 32 teams; to the world leaders who had graced the tournament; to the musicians who had performed in the country during the tournament, and to the international media who covered the event from start to finish.
Mandela ‘laid the foundation’
But Zuma’s “deepest gratitude” was reserved for former president Nelson Mandela, for his leadership and vision.
Mandela had “laid the foundation that we are building on today,” Zuma said. “South Africans have given him the best 92nd birthday ever in the manner in which they hosted this tournament,” he added.
South Africa’s government had learnt important lessons from the World Cup, Zuma said, including project expertise management, expertise which would be put to use in improving the quality of lives of South Africans.
‘Don’t pack away your flags’
Zuma urged South Africans not to pack away their flags or the green and gold because national duty still called.
“We now turn our focus to the fortunes of the nation’s Springbok Rugby team in the Tri-Nations series … We call upon South Africans from Soweto to the Northern Cape town of Springbok to join the large number of international visitors who will again be in our country for the home matches.”
As to what lay ahead for the country, Zuma said it was “not a bad thing” for the country’s eyes to be on the 2020 Olympics Games, given that the South Africa had shown it was capable of hosting world class events.