The Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, Ms Baleke Mbete, today led a road show through the streets of Johannesburg's famous Soweto township to promote the upcoming FIFA Confederations Cup 2009.
Accompanied by an entourage which included the Chief Executive Officer of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee (OC), Dr Danny Jordaan, 2010 football ambassadors Philemon Masinga and Kalusha Bwalya and the Official Mascot of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Zakumi, Ms Mbete took to the Soweto streets and shopping malls to encourage South Africans to attend the Confederations Cup - which kicks off on 14 June 2009 - in large numbers.
With 61 days to go before the Confederations Cup, the road show - which filled the streets of Soweto with the familiar sound of vuvuzelas - was the perfect opportunity to rally South Africans behind the tournament, with Ms Mbete visiting popular Soweto shopping malls Baragwanath and Jabulani, before making a final stop at the Maponya Mall.
At Maponya Mall, the Deputy President was met by the mall's founder, renowned Soweto businessman Richard Maponya. She was also met at the mall by South African football legend Lucas Radebe at a branch of FNB bank, the bank at which South African residents have been able to apply for tickets for both the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 and 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
While at the FNB branch, Ms Mbete was taken through the process of applying for Confederations Cup tickets by the bank's staffers, thereafter completing a mock ticket application.
The Deputy President then addressed a large gathering of shoppers and bystanders who had streamed out of the shops in the mall, in reaction to the crowds gathered and trumpeting of the vuvuzelas (a distinctive trumpet blown by South African football supporters at domestic matches). Ms Mbete told residents in Soweto that while much had been done to prepare for and promote the Confederations Cup, South Africans now needed to rise up to the occasion and get their tickets on time.
"As South Africans we have to do what we normally do. We must be hospitable, we must welcome people to our home. We are a welcoming nation and the FIFA Confederations Cup in June and next year's FIFA World Cup is our chance to share our culture with the rest of the world. As South Africans we need to get our tickets for these events early, in order to be part of it," said Deputy President Mbete, who encouraged the crowds to apply for their FIFA Confederations Cup tickets.
"We have just gone beyond 300 000 ticket applications, which means applications for more than 50 per cent of the tickets for the Confederations Cup have now been made. But we want to make sure the stadiums are full when the likes of Fernando Torres and Kaka, and even our very own Bafana, take to the field. It is important that you apply for your tickets now," said Dr Jordaan.
For Soweto residents who were part of the road show, it was an exciting time to contemplate the feast of football that will be soon be heading for South African shores.
"The Confederations Cup will be a great tournament. It is our time to host and I will definitely go and watch some of the matches. I certainly hope Bafana Bafana will win," said Jabulani Mdume, who was walking through the mall when he was attracted by the sounds of the vuvuzelas.
"It will be a good opportunity for South Africa to be exposed to the world. You can feel the atmosphere here at the mall. It is clear we are all behind it," said Sentle Oliphant, a Soweto student currently on vacation.
Excited 13-year-old Soweto teenager, Thando Dlamini, has only one thing on his mind - seeing the likes of Spain, Brazil, Italy, Iraq, United States, Egypt, New Zealand and South Africa's Bafana Bafana in action in the flesh right before his eyes.
"This is all about soccer. We will get to watch all the best teams in the world - right here in South Africa".
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