Zuma kicks off 2010 countdown

2009-06-11 18:03

Cape Town - Green Point stadium workers cheered as President Jacob Zuma kicked off the one year countdown to the 2010 World Cup on the unfinished turf of the stadium on Thursday afternoon.

"Siyabulela Msholozi," workers shouted in thanks, as Zuma delivered a firm kick over spectators' heads at the R4.45bn stadium.

A former referee on Robben Island's soccer team during his imprisonment there, Zuma joked about refereeing the game to make sure the cup stayed on South African soil.

Other dignitaries that were taken on a tour and multimedia presentation included Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke, CEO of Fifa's Local Organising Committee Danny Jordaan, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato.

Enmity between Zille and Zuma seemed non-existent as they stood side by side and Zuma jokingly referred to the Cape's "vuvuzille" to laughs from the DA leader.

Meanwhile Jordaan celebrated the near close of a long journey to bring the prestigious sporting event to the African continent for the first time.

Fifteen long years

"I've been on this road since 1994, so it's been 15 long years and now it's just one year to go," he told guests and media.

Like Zuma he lambasted reports of a plan B and perceptions that the country wouldn't be ready in time.

"The world has forgotten about a plan B," he declared, while it was ascertained the stadium was 72% ready.

Sapa reported the tournament will kick off on June 11 at Soccer City in Johannesburg next year.

"We have proved to the world that South Africans are special people. When we have challenges we always rise to the occasion," said Zuma.

He paid tribute to the workers, who had been given the afternoon off to attend the ceremony, saying they had made history.

"You have done us good, made us proud," Zuma said.

Valcke said South Africa had to take ownership of the World Cup, and that Fifa would take a back seat from now on.

"We have done what we have to do and now it's your world cup. Enjoy the next 12 months, enjoy the World Cup."