7 June 2010
Just days before South Africa meets Mexico in the opening match of the 2010 Fifa World Cup at Soccer City, Johannesburg, President Jacob Zuma took the opportunity to welcome the world to South Africa.
Briefing the media at the presidential guesthouse in Pretoria on Sunday, Zuma said that the country was “truly blessed and humbled to host the world in our country for this historical and extraordinary event”.
Zuma said the country had been preparing for the tournament from the moment that Fifa president Sepp Blatter announced South Africa as the hosts on 15 May 2004.
“We knew from that moment that South Africa would never be the same again,” Zuma said.
“Indeed South Africa has resembled a construction site for the last six years as world-class stadiums have been built and roads, rail, airports and communication systems upgraded in record time to meet the demands of the tournament and the country’s developmental needs for years to come.
Uniting the nation
But more than that, Zuma noted how the World Cup was already bringing a nation, with a difficult and divided past closer together, with the South African flag now the most popular item on the shopping list of South Africans.
“The enthusiasm, joy and excitement that has engulfed the entire nation in recent weeks has not been witnessed since President Mandela was released from prison.”
Before ceremonially handing the World Cup trophy to Blatter, Zuma thanked the Fifa president for consistently expressing his confidence in South Africa’s ability to host the event, even as Afro-pessimists and others expressed doubts at points along the way.
“Bringing the World Cup to South Africa is to trust South Africa, South Africans, to trust Africa and say you are strong,” said Blatter, who described himself as “a happy man”.
He also thanked former president Thabo Mbeki for his leadership of the project during his term of office, the inter-ministerial task team led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, and the Organising Committee led by Irvin Khoza and his team, including CEO Danny Jordaan and the staff who worked behind the scenes to make things happen.
“The long hours of hard work have finally paid off,” Blatter said. “The nation is proud of you!”