As South Africans woke up this morning, they awoke to news that all 32 teams for the 2010 FIFA World Cup had now qualified – with Uruguay the last to secure their spot in the early hours of the morning.
As nations around the world celebrated their inclusion in Africa’s historic World Cup, the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa (OC) respected the significant achievement on the road to 2010 in a symbolic flag raising ceremony on the lawns of SAFA House.
After each Ambassador and country representative had raised their flag under the magnificent shadow of Soccer City stadium, the Chief Executive Officer of the OC, Dr Danny Jordaan explained that the ceremony marked the beginning of a significant phase in the lead up to 2010.
This storyline has changed from the concrete of the stadiums to the people and the emotion of the World Cup
“As we raise the flag we must understand that the story line has changed. The stadiums will be ready, we can see this. The World Cup is about the teams, the coaches and the fans now. This storyline has changed from the concrete of the stadiums to the people and the emotion of the World Cup. Today is about celebrating Africa’s first World Cup.”
Jordaan also held ambassadors accountable for spreading the news of 2010 back in their home countries, saying he expects to see some great figures in terms of visitors from various countries. “You are not only ambassadors for your countries, but now, you are 32 ambassadors of the World Cup. I know the numbers that your teams brought to Germany in 2006 and I will be watching the numbers in 2010,” joked Jordaan.
For the country representatives of the qualified teams, many of whom stayed up late in the night to see their teams qualify, the ceremony was definitely an honour for their country as back home excitement builds for the trip to South Africa next year.
“It was a very interesting night last night but it was a great match and I must pay tribute to the Egyptians who played very well,” said the Algerian Ambassador to South Africa, Mourad Bencheikh whose team qualified after a hard fought match against Egypt yesterday evening.
“Last night was like the second day of independence. To have this World Cup in South Africa and Africa and to now be part of it is a matter of pride to us,” continued Bencheikh.
“Italians are definitely starting to feel the spirit of the World Cup. Just looking at the stadium here (Soccer City), we can see that things are going well. The fire and the passion of this country is incredible,” said the First Secretary in the Italian Embassy, Dario Armini.
Armini is confident that South Africa can expect an influx of fans from Italy during the World Cup but he is also looking to the Italian community in South Africa for support.
“We can count on the Italian community in South Africa, which is around 30,000 strong. We definitely saw their (Italian supporters) passion during the Confederations Cup but I am sure people will come to South Africa as well, it is such a beautiful country.”
For the New Zealand Ambassador to South Africa, Michael Walsh, the mood back home is celebratory.
“There is a euphoric feeling in New Zealand at the moment – it has been 28 years since we last played in a World Cup and I am sure many fans are looking forward to come to South Africa – the World Cup captures the imagination of all people.”
Walsh is certain that the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be a successful tournament. “For 2010 South Africa is obviously pulling out all the stops and you can see from the amazing stadium behind us that it is all on track,” said Walsh, pointing to the near complete Soccer City stadium that will host the opening and closing games of 2010.