Joseph S. Blatter has praised the government and people of South Africa for their support in 'realising the country's dream of hosting the FIFA World Cup™.
In a ceremony at Tshwane/Pretoria today, Blatter told South Africa's deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe that South Africa has many reasons to be proud of the journey that they have travelled in organising the first ever FIFA World Cup on African soil.
“Today is a historical day for us and for South Africa," he said. "We are now left with seven days before the World Cup, it is seven days before Bafana Bafana launch their World Cup campaign as they try to make all of you proud. I want to pay tribute to the government of the Republic of South Africa and the people of this country."
“Without the support that we have received from the government, we wouldn’t have been able to stage this World Cup. I would also like to thank the provinces and the host cities who have all worked tirelessly for the realisation of this dream. Today, the football family is celebrating with the people of South Africa. In my mind, I have never had any doubts that you will be able to deliver on your promises.”
Asked on whether former South African head of state, Nelson Mandela would attend the opening ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Blatter said: “I first met Madiba in 1992 before he became the President, I also met him briefly yesterday. He wants to go to the opening ceremony and the first game of the FIFA World Cup at Soccer City, he wants to live up his legacy. We must pray that he is part of us. It is his wish, it is also our wish that he joins us.”
During the event, Motlanthe, who is the current acting President of South Africa in the absence of the incumbent, Jacob Zuma, accepted the FIFA World Cup Trophy on the government’s behalf. Motlanthe praised Blatter for his continued efforts to defend and back South Africa throughout its journey to host the event, which started on 15 May 2004.
“I would like to thank you Mr Blatter for the trust you showed in us and our country in the midst of criticism, we are still committed to stick to our word and deliver a great World Cup," he said. "Yesterday, I had a joint Parliament session with all parties and everyone in that room spoke with one voice. I have no doubt that this World Cup trophy will remain in Africa, History will record that our hosting of this tournament was a turning point for this continent.
"I would like to thank the people who have contributed to this dream. I will start with Madiba who campaigned all over for us, then I would like to thank former President, Thabo Mbeki for it was under his leadership that we started to build the stadiums and the infrastructure we see today. Then, I would also like to thank our current President, Jacob Zuma for his role – after all, it was him, when he was still deputy president who signed the 17 FIFA guarantees on behalf of the government. I would also like to thank the construction workers who have built wonderful stadiums."