World Cup success changed SA’s image

2010-12-23 14:01

Hosting the 2010 Fifa World Cup will go down as one of the country’s greatest achievements since the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990.

Some of the country’s highlights include the first ­democratic election of April 27 1994, the Springboks’ triumph in the 1995 Rugby World Cup and Bafana Bafana’s victory in the Africa Cup of ­Nations in 1996.

The successful hosting of the World Cup confirmed South Africa’s status on the international stage as a capable and competent nation.

English football commentator Martin Tyler summed it up when, in a radio interview, he ­commented that South Africa had achieved more in the five weeks of the World Cup than it would ever achieve in 10 years.

Tyler was spot-on. The tournament was worth every cent of investment as its success improved the image of the country immeasurably. South ­Africans showed passion and patriotism to ensure soccer’s big event ran smoothly.

The country’s organisational ability was ­confirmed by Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who gave a near-perfect nine out of 10 score for hosting the event.

“You have shown the world that you can achieve anything and it’s time now that you show the rest of Africa that it can achieve anything,” said Blatter at a post-tournament briefing in July.

“There were many pessimists in the beginning, but as I always said it is a question of trust and confidence, and we trusted South Africa and they delivered.

“South Africa has not only managed to stage an incident-free World Cup, it has left a good ­impression with the people of the world, and you can be proud of that. The compliments should go to you, not to Fifa.”

The tournament afforded Africa the chance to be profiled for what it is?– not as a dark continent and a place of diseases, famine and endless civil wars.

If the 1995 rugby World Cup was best known for bringing black and white people together, the soccer spectacular went a step further to unite the rich and poor, locals and foreigners.

Football Friday became popular as everyone embraced the spirit of the World Cup by wearing Bafana jerseys and also displayed their rainbow flags.

The event promoted African unity with South Africans adopting Ghana (named Baghana ­Baghana) after the national team, Bafana Bafana, was knocked out in the first round.

It was also a catalyst for soccer development as it created greater interest for the game. The interest in football here increased, as it did in all countries where the tournament was staged.

The event saw unprecedented infrastructure upgrading as billions of rands were spent to build five new stadiums and upgrade others for both the games and training purposes.

The country’s highways underwent massive ­refurbishment to compete among the best in the world.

A study conducted by the Department of ­Tourism showed a radical change in attitudes ­displayed by foreigners towards South Africa, with those attending matches being happy with security personnel and hospitality, and more than 95% of visitors saying they would be ­returning.

The vuvuzela, synonymous with South African football, became the sound of the event and won an entry in the latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Since June 11, South Africa has not been the same and the spirit of the World Cup will live for years to come.

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