FIFA President, Joseph S. Blatter heaped praise on South Africa’s preparations as the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosts celebrated 100 days before kick-off of the first FIFA World Cup™ on African soil on 11 June at a special event in Durban.
During his visit to the newly-built Durban Stadium that will host one of the semi-finals during the month-long tournament, the FIFA President said that he was impressed by the venue; already rated as one of the best stadiums in the African continent.
Blatter, together with FIFA Secretary-General, Jerome Valcke, South Africa’s deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, CAF President and Chairman of the 2010 Organising committee Issa Hayatou, Local Organising Committee Chairman, Irvin Khoza and 2010 OC CEO, Danny Jordaan were among the dignitaries who attended the event.
Addressing the media at a press conference at the stadium, Blatter touched on a number of issues and reiterated his support for South Africa as it enters the most crucial stage of its preparations to host the world’s greatest showpiece.
On Africa's debut
The FIFA World Cup in Africa is a love story - a love story between the African continent and myself which began when I was the technical director of FIFA. It has come a long way in a long time. It has been a road travelled with trust, confidence but with patience as well. When this country was awarded the World Cup, there was a lot of work to do. We had to convince people that one day we would give back something to Africa. Africa has given so much to the world and to the world of football.
I’m very proud and very happy that this love story is coming to the 'wedding celebration'. We are speaking about 100 days to go, but this all goes back to 17 May 1998 when I was campaigning for the FIFA Presidency for the first time and I said that, ‘We have to bring the World Cup to Africa.’ This is what I mean by having patience, as South Africa did not win the first time in 2000 when it lost by one vote to Germany, but with patience and perseverance you managed to win the right to host the World Cup in 2004.
On Madiba’s legacy
When the living monument of your country, Madiba, stood in Zurich on 15 May 2004, a dream came true. He is the man who has always believed that this country will organise and host a successful World Cup. This has been his dream. Today, the dream is alive. The African population believes in this World Cup. Also, many people around the world want this World Cup to succeed.
On doubts and scepticism
Why is it that some people in this community do not believe in this dream? Let’s go and have this World Cup and we will discuss it at the end of July. Doubts have been raised by some people. But there were never any doubts during or before the duration of this project. We never had any second thoughts, we never questioned our decision.
On the legacy for Africa
We have always said that this World Cup should and would leave a legacy for the African continent. One of the projects that champions this cause is the ‘Win in Africa with Africa’ programme in which FIFA has set aside a budget of $70 USD million for several projects, including laying football turf all over the African continent. We also have the Football for Hope Centres which will operate in many African countries. It started here in South Africa with a beautiful Football for Hope Centre in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
A word from the hosts
South African deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe echoed Blatter’s sentiment and was quick to reiterate the country’s commitment on delivering on its promises.
“There is still a lot of work to do to before 11 June,” he said. “We have completed the stadiums, we now have to concentrate on some aspects like the movement of people during the tournament as well as welcoming our visitors. We have to make sure that we show our visitors a spirit of ubuntu and make them feel at home.”