The day everyone has been waiting for has finally arrived – or rather, the day that everyone who happens to be a soccer/football fan has been waiting for. But fan or no fan, this is one event that makes the world sit up and pay attention.
That’s right, the world’s largest sporting event is the FIFA World Cup. And the first game is between Mexico and the Cup’s home team, South Africa. The country’s airports were crowded yesterday as the first wave of fans poured into South Africa from around the globe. But this year’s World Cup might be about more than soccer… for South Africa, at least.
Judging by the wide smiles and excited faces, and the amount of people getting in on the upcoming action, the anticipation in South Africa has been building for days, weeks, months… even years.
For one man – Danny Jordaan, head of South Africa’s World Cup organizing committee – the anticipation of today’s date has been building for even longer than that. After all, the man has been campaigning for the World Cup to come to South Africa for the last 16 years. For the last six, he has been working to deliver it.
According to Jordaan, the sense of anticipation felt in the lead-up to today’s opening ceremonies reminds him of an equally – if not more – significant time in the country’s history.
Jordaan said that yesterday reminded him of the energy and emotion of South Africa’s peoples that that greeted Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.
In fact, he believes the fact that the 2010 FIFA World Cup is taking place in South Africa this year could be as significant as the day that Mandela (whose great-granddaughter tragically died in a car accident this morning) was released from prison that day.
“I compare this moment to Mandela’s release, for which we waited 27 years. For our right to vote we waited from 1948,” he said. “But Fifa was formed in 1904, so it has been a long wait for Africa’s World Cup. But we did not wait alone. The whole of Africa was waiting with us.”
So good luck Africa, and good luck to all of the players this year… here’s to a historic World Cup in a place that – as Archbishop Desmond Tutu pointed out yesterday – is “the cradle of humanity.”