2009 has been a big year for South Africa. The country hosted the first major FIFA tournament on African soil, the FIFA Confederations Cup – welcoming major international teams and their fans to the country, and saw the completion of the stadiums, while the spectacle of the Final Draw was broadcast to 200 million people across the world in what was regarded as a highly successful event.
No doubt 2009 has been the year that South Africa has woken up to the realisation of what lies around the corner. It was a year that, for the Chief Executive Officer of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa, Dr Danny Jordaan, marked,"the end of doubt and the beginning of hope."
Doctor Khumalo is one of South Africa's most famous football heroes, and after helping champion South Africa to their African Cup of Nations win in 1996, he sees what a monumental year it has been.
“The highlight for me in 2009 was the Final Draw. On paper it looks bad for Bafana Bafana, but this is football and anything can happen, this could be a David and Goliath story. In 1996 we were also drawn in a tough group, but in the opening match we saw all South Africans unite, they packed the stadium, and we beat one of the strongest countries in Africa, Cameroon, 3-0. It's not about who you are, what you are ranked, but what matters is the character you show on the field.”
With the World Cup 181 days away, Khumalo is excited about the opportunities for his nation and his fellow South Africans. “I'm happy for my country. The World Cup has touched the hearts of individuals out there already. So as a country we will be winners in many ways that are not yet visible. That is when we will reap the fruits, and we will be able to say 'If it wasn't for the World Cup we wouldn't be where we are.'”
Andrew Black is a magazine editor in Cape Town, and recalls the impact the Final Draw had on his city. “It was an intensely positive moment with the atmosphere in Cape Town during the draw. I haven’t felt anything like it since the Rugby World Cup champions parade. It was truly magnificent and with the chorus of foreign voices around town, I felt for the first time what was in store for us. There was so much laughter and so many smiles, it made me feel incredibly proud.”
Looking forward to 2010, Black believes that it is this spirit that will permeate throughout the World Cup. “I believe the atmosphere may very well be what defines this tournament for the world as well as South Africa. We should all be incredibly proud of what went down this last weekend, it was a special feeling and long may it last!”
“The biggest highlight of 2009 for me has to be the construction of the magnificent Moses Mabhida stadium,” says Abonga Nkwelo, a 24 year old living in Umhlanga, Durban. “I remember watching the perimeter being erected, then the walls, and then the arch, I remember looking up to the top of it when the little bush was placed on top, a signal of success which traditionally comes from Germany (German engineers built the arch), and seeing the stadium finally completed just made the whole thing real, the World Cup in South Africa is going to happen.”
Abonga sees the 2010 FIFA World Cup as a promise realised. “South Africa is already an iconic country. We hosted the Rugby World Cup successfully and we have hosted the Cricket World Cup. We are in nature just bred for success as a nation. With 2010 being the first FIFA World Cup in Africa, we are living in the making of history. South Africa is already the pride of Africa, after 2010 South Africa will be the pride of the world.”