By the time I write this the most awaited sporting event of the year has been kicked off in spectacularly enthusiastic South Africa for the first time ever in the history. Despite of all odds Bafana is fully charged up to stage an event of such a high magnitude.
The 19th FIFA World Cup has been the dream of Africa that turned into an unforgettable reality on 11th June 2010, the same day when Nelson Mandela was convicted 46 years ago. The World Cup kick-off day interestingly also marks the 22nd anniversary of the famous “Free Mandela Concert” held at London’s Wembley Stadium on 11 June 1988.
The majestic event has been scheduled from 11th June to 11 July 2010. Thirty two teams from 6 confederations will be battling for the Cup. Soccer City, the host of the first of the 64 games, 94,000 capacity is a showpiece arena rebuilt to resemble an African cooking pot, laying just a long kick from Soweto. In Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and the other host cities, the atmosphere was no less electric signaled by the distinct buzz of the vuvuzela, the noise-making trumpet of South African football fans.
Although international stars like Shakira, Black Eyed Peas and Alicia Keys kicked off the celebrations in style with all glitz and glamor but the opening ceremony and game missed the presence of iconic South African president Nelson Mandela, as he stayed at home with his family, mourning his 13-year-old great-granddaughter Zenani, who died in a car crash on the way home from a tournament-eve concert in Soweto.
The choice of South Africa to host the World Cup is a tribute to the rising stature of African nations in football. South Africa president Jacob Zuma declares FIFA world Cup 2010 as a vote of confidence from the international community.
“There are some moments which define the history of a country. Tonight we are on the verge of living one of these moments when the 2010 World Cup gets underway,”
All but one of the 17 tournaments held in Europe and the Americas have been won by a country of the host continent so hopes are high for South Africa in this event. But the only thing that counts at the end of the day is the performance over 90 minutes, and not the form and reputation built over years. The opening two matches of the tournament ended into a draw making the tournament more exciting and erratic. One can expect a lot from the scintillating month long event.