International leaders came out with high praise for South Africa on Sunday, as the country prepared to host the finale of what many have described as the best Fifa World Cup ever.
Addressing the 1Goal Education for All Summit in Pretoria before the final between Spain and the Netherlands, Fifa president Sepp Blatter described the country and its citizens as “role models”. He said South Africa had set an example with both its hospitality as a host nation and its exceptional organisational ability.
“The trust Fifa has put into the country and its people have been answered with a big, big success,” Blatter said. “Thank you South Africa, thank you.”
He joked that everyone had survived the vuvuzelas, even though it did not seem as if they would at the start of the tournament.
Netherlands Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende also praised South Africa for the “outstanding organisation of the World Cup”.
“It is an excellent example for other countries,” he said.
Balkenende, who was visiting South Africa for the final, said that earlier in the day he had attended a church service, where vuvuzelas were used during the service.
Despite Spain’s eventual win, the Dutch prime minister was upbeat about his team’s chances, and dismissive of Paul the octopus’s predictions.
“Don’t believe the octopus Paul because the female octopus Pauline from the Netherlands and the small bird Mani from Singapore are predicting another result,” he said.
President of the Gabon and African Union representative Ali Ondimba Bongo thanked South Africa for making the continent proud.
“The World Cup has drawn the attention of hundreds of thousands of international visitors and millions of viewers to the continent,” he said. “I want to congratulate South Africa for the successful hosting of the World Cup as an African event.”
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation director-general Irina Bokova said she would be taking three vuvuzelas home for her children.