Expect the spectacular at South Africa 2010
Every World Cup is special with its own unique atmosphere and I am not just quoting from the FIFA good news catalogue here, I am talking from experience.
I first saw a World Cup match as youngster in 1966 and have covered the last seven since Spain 1982 as a journalist.
After spending a week in South Africa, a country very different from when I was last here in 1976, I believe that the 2010 World Cup finals are going to be incredible — and like none that have ever been staged before.
We all know this is going to be the first World Cup on African soil, but it is also going to be the first World Cup held in a developing country, and in essence this new South Africa is less than 20 years old.
However, as they say in soccer speak, if you are good enough it doesn’t matter how young you are, and this young vibrant country is certainly good enough and equipped enough to host a dazzling, unique finals.
On Saturday, overseas journalists, many of whom were seeing a match in Africa for the first time, had their eyes opened when they witnessed the astonishing vibrancy, atmosphere and passion of the fans at the Soweto derby between Orlando
Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs moved to Durban to coincide with the preliminary round draw.
Put the noise generated by the fans at Anfield, St James’ Park and Schalke together, treble the volume and you’ll have some idea of the cacophony that lasted from an hour before kickoff till after the game finished.
Add into the mix the truly welcoming nature of the South African people — this cannot be under-estimated — and you’ll find yourself swept along on a tide of excitement.
Of course I am not being naive. We know there is widespread and brutal crime in South Africa, there is poverty, there are huge gulfs between rich and poor. But there have been social problems in every country that has staged a World Cup over the last 40 years. Perhaps the legacy of the 2010 World Cup might be to actually help South Africa improve some of these blights on its society.
Danny Jordaan, the driving force behind South Africa’s World Cup bid and the CEO of the local organising committee oversaw Sunday’s preliminary round draw in Durban that went off virtually without a hitch.
South Africa, as Jordaan said, is beginning to prove the Doubting Thomases wrong. I agree with him. Anyone who still thinks that the World Cup will not take place here should go and sit down in a quiet corner away from it all.
It’s going to be amazing.
PHOTO: FIFA President Sepp Blatter unveils the official poster for the 2010 World Cup at press conference in Durban, November 23, 2007. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings