One of the most important aspects of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ is to involve and integrate the entire population from every corner of the country.

And there’s no better way to do this than to reach out to the country’s school pupils, their teachers and their parents. With this in mind the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa (SALOC) this weekend kicked off, in partnership with the national Departments of Education and Sport and Recreation, the special school campaign “Adopt a Nation”, targeting over 12 million scholars from over 30 000 schools throughout the country.

“Our aim is to make this global event, located here in South Africa, appeal to every province and city across the country and the continent. Schools have been identified as a primary vehicle to get the 2010 FIFA World Cup messages not only to children, but indeed families and communities in South Africa and the African continent,” said Dr Irvin Khoza, SALOC Chairman.

The campaign is part of the ‘My 2010 School Adventure’ project, focusing on three key pillars; education, development (sports skills and coaching) and participation in regional and nationwide schools football tournaments. In the first phase the pupils and teachers will as part of their school curriculum learn more about the teams participating at next year’s FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 and build relationships with schools in the countries who have qualified.

Schools have already been playing in provincial schools tournaments and the winning teams from all provinces will play in the schools Confederations Cup finals in March next year – standing a chance to win tickets to the tournament. To date 7 957 schools from 81 districts across South Africa's nine provinces have already registered for the competition

The FIFA Confederations Cup, held from 14 to 28 June 2009, also known as the “Festival of Champions”, features the current champions of the six FIFA Confederations, reigning world champions and next FIFA World Cup hosts, namely Brazil, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, United States and hosts South Africa.

From September 2008 to January 2009, pupils from across the country will work on creative elements such as essays, poetry, art projects, music and dance performances relating to the FIFA Confederations Cup, with the winning submissions also standing a chance to win tickets for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 and 2010 FIFA World Cup. Another aspect of the programme is that thousands of teachers will also be given specialised coaching courses in an effort to improve the standard of schools football.

The schools campaign provides an opportunity to celebrate issues of national identity, heritage and unity in diversity amongst learners, educators and parents. It is of major importance for our scholars – the future of our nation – to learn about the cultures and history of other countries, and what better way than to include them through a progressive programme such as ‘Adopt A Nation’ which will empower our young academics with knowledge that will stand them in good stead in years to come,” said Naledi Pandor, Minister of Education, at the launch of the programme this weekend at the Nasrec Sports Precinct in Johannesburg.

Ambassadors and representatives from the eight FIFA Confederations Cup nations joined in the launch festivities, at which South Africa’s nine provinces symbolically ‘adopted’ each one of the eight participants, as well as the African Union in a random draw.

The Easten Cape adopted Spain, Free State adopted Italy, Gauteng popularly adopted South Africa, KwaZulu Natal adopted the African Union, Limpopo adopted New Zealand, Mpumalanga adopted Egypt, the Northern Cape adopted crowd favourites Brazil, North West adopted the United States of America and the Western Cape adopted Iraq.

School pupils in the various countries will now learn more about the FIFA Confederations Cup, and about the countries they “adopted” today. Zakumi, the Official Mascot of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, who quickly gained popularity after his worldwide debut this week, was also on hand to entertain hundreds of school pupils at the launch event.

“The ‘Adopt A Nation’ programme is a venture that will revolutionise sport and education in SA ahead of world class soccer showpiece events of the calibre of the FIFA Confederation Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We trust that pupils’ aspirations on the sport and academic fronts will be taken to new heights as a result of their involvement in the programme”, said Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation, Mr Gert Oosthuizen.