World Cup highlights SA football year

24 December 2010

2010 was an outstanding year for South African football – and sport in general – but picking out the highlight is easy. It doesn’t belong to any individual sportsman or woman or team, but to the country as a whole for the hugely successful hosting of the Fifa World Cup, played in Africa for the first time.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter declared the event “near perfect”, and gave it a rating of nine out of 10.

Contrary to the stories of some doom mongers ahead of the playing of football’s showcase event, the World Cup proved to be a massive success and, as the tournament progressed, South Africa and South Africans changed the perceptions of people from afar, leading to many football fans making a late move to join in the festive atmosphere of the tournament.

Stadiums

One thing that truly stood out about the World Cup was the world class standard of the stadiums, which surpassed any World Cup previously.

Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium, known as Soccer City during the event, displayed the iconic African image of a calabash, while Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium dominated the city’s beautiful beachfront skyline with its stunning arch, and the Cape Town Stadium impressed with its warm intimacy.

It was not just about those three stadiums, however, it was about all of them and another reason they shone was because of the fantastic support of local fans alongside the traveling hordes of overseas supporters.

There had been fears about the level of support that South Africans would give the event, but those worries proved unfounded as the nation took the World Cup to heart and the South African flag flew proudly throughout the event, buoyed by the very successful “Football Fridays” campaign.

Vuvuzela

And lest anyone forget, the World Cup introduced a new word to the English language: vuvuzela. The droning plastic trumpets became the sound of the World Cup, loved by some, hated by others.

Spain were crowned worthy champions after beating the Netherlands 1-0 in the final. No team could live with the Spaniards’ splendid passing game and they dominated every match they played, even though they suffered a shock 1-0 loss to Switzerland in the group stages.

They recorded four straight clean sheets in the knockout stages, winning four matches by 1-0 margins, against Portugal, Paraguay, Germany, and the Netherlands. Frankly, the scores don’t do Spain justice. They were far more dominant than that.

Bafana Bafana’s success

The success of Bafana Bafana, after a poor 2009, played an integral role in securing the support of South Africans at the World Cup, and it carried over after the event as football enjoyed bigger crowds and a greater media spotlight.

Bafana Bafana played under Carlos Alberto Parreira at the World Cup, with the Brazilian coaching for a record sixth time in finals. After the completion of the World Cup, he stepped down and his place was taken by Pitso Mosimane, previously one of Parreira’s assistants.

When Mosimane took over there was no let up as South Africa continued the good results achieved under Parreira and they finished 2010 leading their qualifying group for the African Cup of Nations 2012.

World ranking

As late as April, however, South Africa was ranked 90th in the Fifa World Rankings. By the end of the year Bafana Bafana had jumped 40 places to 50th, a position the team had last held in February 2006.

The team’s overall record in 2010 was nine wins, six draws and two losses. For the first time in a while, Bafana recorded victories over teams ranked higher than them with some regularity. The results include defeats of France, Denmark, Colombia, and Ghana.

Siphiwe Tshabalala underlined the ability and quality of the national team in South Africa’s World Cup opening match against Mexico at Soccer City when he scored with a stunning left-footed rocket. That goal has since been named one of Fifa’s 10 Best Goals of the Year.

In November, Bafana Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena became only the second South African to be awarded the Freedom of the City of London after former President Nelson Mandela.

The award was in recognition of his achievements as a footballer, a leader, and the work done by the Aaron Mokoena Foundation, which works to identify and offer training, coaching and mentoring to talented young players at school level.

Banyana Banyana

The national women’s team, Banyana Banyana, had an opportunity to shine at home when South Africa hosted the CAF African Women’s Championship in November.

A loss to defending champions Equatorial Guinea in the semi-finals left Banyana facing Cameroon in a playoff for third and fourth and a 2-0 win secured third place. Nigeria beat Equatorial Guinea 4-2 to be crowned African champions.

Premier Soccer League

On the domestic front, SuperSport United claimed their third Premier Soccer League (PSL) title in succession under coach Gavin Hunt. It was a real feather in Hunt’s cap as his squad has lost top players each year to other clubs.

SuperSport United defender Morgan Gould was named the PSL Player of the Year, while Daine Klate won the Absa Premiership Player of the Season award. He subsequently moved to Orlando Pirates. The Absa Premiership Players Player of the Season went the way of Mamelodi Sundowns and Bafana Bafana striker Katlego Mphela.

Champions twice in one year!

Due to scheduling changes because of the World Cup, Kaizer Chiefs were able to win the Telkom Knockout Cup twice in the same year! The final of the 2009 competition took place in April, with the Amakhosi defeating Ajax Cape Town 2-1 in Durban. Then, in December, they won the 2010 competition with a 3-0 hammering of their great rivals, Orlando Pirates.

In addition, Chiefs won the invitational Telkom Charity Cup in August, beating Pirates 4-3 from the penalty spot in the final after the teams had played to a 1-1 draw.

Pirates tasted success in October when they lifted the MTN8 title after defeating Moroka Swallows in a penalty shootout in the final. The teams had been level at 1-1 after regulation time. The Buccaneers then triumphed 4-2 from the spot.

BidVest Wits officially open Soccer City on 22 May with a classy 3-0 victory over Amazulu in the final of the Nedbank Cup. The match drew 72 000 fans, which showed that the rebuilt stadium would be a popular drawcard.

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