With the new year approaching fast, the time has come to cast a reflective eye on 2010 and take stock of a momentous 12 months.
The historic 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ was surely the highlight of the year, with football's most celebrated tournament taking place in Africa for the first time. Yet, as FIFA.com reveals in picking out its 12 highlights of the year, 2010 served up many other magical moments and notable landmarks.
1. Egypt conquer Africa again, 31 January. A 1-0 victory over Ghana in the final gave the Pharoahs their third consecutive CAF African Cup of Nations title. In doing so they joined Iran, Mexico and Argentina as the only other national teams to have been crowned continental champions three times in a row. Only Argentina and Uruguay with 14 and Brazil with eight have won more regional titles than the Egyptians, who have seven to their name, more than any other side in Africa.
2. Comoros open their new HQ, 4 March. The opening of the new headquarters of the Comoros Football Association is a fine example of the support the Goal Programme can give in helping member associations around the world to develop the game. Comoros, which joined FIFA in 2005 and has a population of 650,000 spread across its islands, were just one of the recipients of the 84 Goal projects implemented in 2010, with a total of $33,600,000 having been invested in them. Since the programme’s launch in 1999, no fewer than 504 Goal projects have been rolled out, with the overall budget totalling $210,600,000.
3. Inter Milan end Barcelona’s reign, 28 April. Coach Jose Mourinho pulled the strings as I Nerazzurri halted Barça’s regal progress in the UEFA Champions League, knocking out the holders in an unforgettable semi-final tie. The Portuguese strategist earned effusive praise for his side’s defensive masterclass before orchestrating Inter’s defeat of Bayern Munich in the final in Madrid. In collecting their third European title and their first since 1965, the Italians also earned a place at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010, which they would win in style.
4. The 2006 finalists go home early, 24 June. A 3-2 defeat at the hands of Slovakia consigned defending champions Italy to an ignominious first-round exit at South Africa 2010. Suffering the same fate two days earlier were France, the side the Italians beat to become world champions at Germany 2006. Having collected nine wins between them four years earlier, the two European giants failed to muster a single victory in South Africa.
5. Spain win their first FIFA World Cup, 11 July. After arriving at South Africa 2010 as firm favourites, Spain proceeded to lose their opening group game to unfancied Switzerland, raising old fears as to their ability to compete on the biggest stage of all. “The important thing after losing that game was to stay cool and stick to our beliefs,” Andres Iniesta, the hero of the Final against the Netherlands, later commented. In winning their next six games en route to their maiden world title, the richly gifted Spanish set footballing standards for other teams to follow.
6. Mandela attends the Closing Ceremony, 11 July. The presence of Nelson Mandela at the Closing Ceremony of South Africa 2010 set the seal on what was an emotional and unforgettable FIFA World Cup, the first to be held in Africa. Mandela’s cart ride across the pitch in the company of his wife triggered tears around the world, as a heartfelt tribute was paid to one of the most important figures of recent world history.
7. The semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, 29 July. Germany, Colombia, Nigeria and Korea Republic created history when they lined up in the semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, the first time teams from four different confederations had reached this stage. The Nigerians created another landmark when they became the first African side to reach the final of a FIFA women’s tournament.
8. Kenya opens its Football for Hope Centre, 4 September. With the exception of its predecessors in South Africa, the Football for Hope Centre in Mathare, Kenya, is the first such complex to be opened in Africa. Further centres were later unveiled in Namibia and Mali as part of 20 Centres for 2010, the official campaign of the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup South Africa. The chief objective of the initiative is to promote public health, education and social development through football.
9. Transfer Matching System comes into effect, 1 October. Following two years of trials, the Transfer Matching System became mandatory. The system is designed to centralise international transfers and make them quicker, smoother and more transparent. “The most important thing is that it increases the transparency of individual transactions and helps us to tackle issues such as the fight against money laundering and the protection of minors in transfers,” said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter on its introduction.
10. Birthdays for two legends, 23 and 30 October. Regarded by many as the two greatest players in the history of the game, Pele and Diego Maradona both celebrated landmark birthdays in October, O Rei turning 70 and El Diez 50. Earlier in the year the Argentinian legend took part in his fifth FIFA World Cup, his first as a coach. As fate would have it, Argentina’s opening game at South Africa 2010 came against Nigeria, the team that provided the opposition in Maradona’s last appearance as a player 16 years earlier.
11. 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts named, 2 December. The eyes of the world were fixed on Zurich earlier this month, when the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup finals were announced. In opening the two envelopes to reveal the names of the respective winners, Russia and Qatar, the FIFA President triggered scenes of jubilation and joy as the victorious bid teams celebrated their success.
12. TP Mazembe stun the world, 14 December. Despite their surprise win over Mexico’s Pachuca in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010, few people gave TP Mazembe of Congo DR much hope of repeating the trick against Copa Libertadores champions SC Internacional. Defying all expectations, however, The Crows downed the Brazilians 2-0 to become the first African team to reach the final of the competition. Not even defeat to Inter Milan in the final could take the gloss off their ground-breaking performance.