Congress opens with message from Mandela
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The second day of the 60th FIFA Congress got underway this morning at the Gallagher Convention Centre, which hosted its opening ceremony yesterday. Delegates from FIFA’s member associations were treated to a superb spectacle as the event kicked off at 5.00pm, with successful South African singer Lira leading the way.

After a video looking back at the year 2009 for FIFA, it was then time for President Joseph S. Blatter to open the Congress officially. “I’m very happy to be here in South Africa for this FIFA World Cup,” he said in his introduction. “Football is universal; it impassions everyone the world over and is a tool of education and apprenticeship for humanity. At this point, I must also pay homage to Nelson Mandela, who during his incarceration on Robben Island gave his own immense lesson in humanity.”

Next it was over to the Mayor of Johannesburg, Amos Masondo, to welcome all the guests present, before the South African Football Association (SAFA) President, Kirsten Nematandani, took over. “I want to thank FIFA and its President for having opened the way to historic change, for having brought us along with you and for the confidence you have shown in us,” said Nematandani.

At this point, I must also pay homage to Nelson Mandela, who during his incarceration on Robben Island gave his own immense lesson in humanity
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter

South African President Jacob Zuma also took time out to address the FIFA delegates. “FIFA decided that Africa’s time had come,” he said. “And that a nation which was only just emerging from centuries of pain and conflict needed the chance to prove its capabilities.” Before passing on a message from Mandela, he added: “We reserve our most sincere thanks for our idol, President Nelson Mandela, who inspires us even now thanks to his indestructible belief in humanity and his love for his country and his people.”

Mandela’s message followed on perfectly from the current South African leader’s speech. “This is another historic day for South African democracy as we welcome FIFA’s 208 delegations,” explained the former President. “The 2010 FIFA World Cup is much more than a game: it symbolises the power of football, which can bring people together from all over, whatever their language, colour, political beliefs or religious faith.” After that, it was time for the flag ceremony, with the flags of all 208 of FIFA’s member associations paraded on stage.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup is much more than a game: it symbolises the power of football, which can bring people together from all over, whatever their language, colour, political beliefs or religious faith
Former South African President, Nelson Mandela

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) President and the Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup™ Chairman, Issa Hayatou, spoke next and he ceded the podium to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Local Organising Committee Chairman, Irvin Khoza. With that, everyone took a short break to sample the delights of Jamali, a dance troupe, after which a total of eight FIFA Orders of Merit were presented (*).

One notable recipient was Alcides Ghiggia, a goalscorer for Uruguay during the 1950 FIFA World Cup Final against Brazil at the Maracana. “FIFA thanks Alcides Edgardo Ghiggia for having given football lovers in Uruguay and all around the world one of the most moving moments in the history of the game,” read part of his laudation.

It was then over to FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke to take the microphone. He outlined the initiatives which will make it possible for Africa to derive long-term benefits from the 2010 FIFA World Cup, bringing the spotlight down on the 20 Centres for 2010 official campaign and the ‘Win in Africa with Africa’ programme among others.

*FIFA Orders of Merit:
Alcides Ghigghia
Holger Obermann
Johan Cruyff
Junji Ogura
Lisle Austin
Molefi Oliphant
Steven Sumner
Thabo Mbeki