African ambassadors behind South Africa
© Foto-net

On Thursday 8 May 2008, 16 African ambassadors in Switzerland convened at the headquarters of FIFA. At the request of the South African ambassador, Dr Konji Sebati, they were welcomed by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, before being given a progress update on the organisation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ by FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke and the CEO of the Local Organising Committee, Danny Jordaan. Finally, FIFA Director of International Relations Jerome Champagne presented the 'Winning in Africa with Africa' project.

"During my campaign for the 1998 election, I said 'something needs to be done for Africa'. My wish was for the World Cup to be awarded to Africa," said Blatter. "It hasn't been easy, which is why we introduced the rotation system, but now we have achieved it with South Africa 2010. It's only fair, a just reward for this continent which has given so much to football."

For his part, Danny Jordaan touched on the tremendous legacy that the FIFA World Cup will leave not only to South Africa, but to the continent as a whole. From tourism and infrastructures to job opportunities, the wish of the LOC's Chief Executive Officer is first and foremost that "the spin-offs last long after the tournament has ended".

Jordaan also pointed out that South Africa can not fail. "FIFA gave us a huge gift in 2004, but the responsibility is heavy and we must succeed. We also owe it to Nelson Mandela, for whom it is a very special event. In 1966, from his prison on Robben Island, his only contact with the outside world was listening to World Cup matches on the radio."

'A real revolution'
Jerome Valcke cited the numerous positive impacts of the marketing plan for Africa, detailing the television rights and the FIFA projects designed to bring benefits to the largest possible number of people. In particular, he referred to the establishment of a "FIFA Broadcast Academy, dedicated to training Africans for work in all areas of the media".

The Beninese ambassador, Mr Samuel Amehou, undoubtedly summed up the general sentiment among his fellow diplomats when he said: "We are right behind South Africa because we appreciate what they are doing for the entire continent. By giving the World Cup to Africa, President Blatter has brought about a real revolution. I can assure you that FIFA really does help our countries and does not run off at the first sign of problems".

His words were echoed by the Congolese ambassador Mr Roger Julien Menga, who added: "I would like to express my pride in belonging to the continent which will organise the next World Cup, and I hope with all my heart that Nelson Mandela will be able to see it with his own eyes."

To finish, Jerome Champagne described the various achievements of the programme 'Winning in Africa with Africa', in particular the 52 artificial pitches which have been completed or are under construction, as well as the support given to national leagues. "Things are progressing well, and besides, 26 pitches were already completed on 1 April 2008. In terms of helping the national leagues, we are there to assist with the streamlining and reorganisation of the leagues, provide support with equipment and help the clubs, nothing more nothing less."

The last word went to Danny Jordaan, who underlined that "the World Cup must be at the same time full of meaning and happiness for all African people. That is our great challenge and we will rise to it, with the help of all the countries in Africa."