Zakumi celebrations kicked off with a bang when he visited St. Dunstan's school to congratulate some of the winners from 2010 FIFA Mascot Competition.
Learners throughout the country were asked to guess, through the use of their art skills, what the 2010 FIFA World Cup mascot would look like. Through the Star newspaper the LOC released hints as to how the mascot may look. Apart from these hints it was up to the learners to use their imagination.
When all entries were submitted it became apparent that Ryan Wrensch created the closest resemblance to the character we all lovingly know as Zakumi. What soon became obvious is that Wrensch's school, the Benoni based St. Dunstan's, had actually produced more than one winner. In an amazing turn of events both Reyneke van den Berg and Taylen Kench were also placed second and third respectively.
"The children were very enthusiastic and excited about the project. It was all about getting the kids inspired" said Lorraine Emmett, a teacher at St. Dunston's. The spirit of the 2010 FIFA World could be felt throughout the school grounds as Zakumi paraded around with the three lucky winners on the Coca-Cola stage. The rest of the school screamed excitedly as 2010 FIFA World Cup shirts were handed out to the crowd.
For Wrensch it was a special occasion. "I felt like I was dreaming when I was told. Now I want FIFA [2010 FIFA World Cup] to come early to South Africa".
The excitement reached fever pitch when both Mark Fish (former Bafana Bafana star and a 2010 Organising Committee ambassador) and Dr. Danny Jordaan (LOC CEO) arrived on the scene to meet the school and especially to congratulate the winners. Dr. Jordaan even joked with the learners, asking them if anyone could help with Zakumi's homework.
On a more serious note Jordaan really hit home the point about the legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup referring to another initiative involving learners - the My 2010 School Adventure project - involving schools adopting nations taking part in the FIFA Confederations Cup. "The event is not just about football matches. It must also be a learning experience. That is why we encourage schools to adopt a team and not just so they can learn about players like Kaka. It is so they can learn about the rivers and mountains of Brazil as well".
Education is of course vital but there are also more football related reasons for the school campaigns. For Jordaan it is about strengthening the football culture at the grassroots level. This all plays into the legacy motivation behind hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. There is no point having world class football infrastructure when there are no players coming up through the school levels.
For the teachers and learners at St. Dunstons the day was about kicking off the celebrations for the greatest football spectacular the world will ever witness. As the crowds flocked around Zakumi, an excited teacher at St. Dunston's, Glenda Hay, exclaimed "We are here to celebrate 2010!"