As excitement mounts for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009, the far-reaching benefits of the tournament across South Africa are certainly being felt.
The strains of the United States of America's famous Star Spangled Banner anthem were heard amid much fanfare at the Redibone Middle School in Mafikeng in South Africa's North West province this week.
As part of an innovative partnership between the national Department of Education, the Department of Sport and Recreation, the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa and the South African Broadcasting Corporation, schools in all nine of the country's provinces have ‘adopted' the teams participating in the FIFA Confederations Cup.
North American CONCACAF champions, the United States, have been adopted by the North West province, with a US delegation led by US Consul General Andrew Passen, visiting the province this week as part of the programme which sees pupils learning more about the culture, football, history and language of the participating FIFA Confederations Cup countries.
And judging by the reaction to the US visit, its clear not only South Africans are getting excited about hosting the FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, but Americans are looking forward to it just as much.
"I am very excited about South Africa hosting the FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as it is such a world-spanning tournament and the first time the African continent is hosting such an event," Passen said as he addressed 1 000 pupils at the Redibone Middle School, whose under 14 boys and girls teams had won the North West region's Confederations Cup schools tournament which also part of the ‘My 2010 School Adventure' campaign.
A total of 8 349 schools across South Africa are participating in the schools programme and learning more about the likes of Spain, Italy, Brazil, Iraq, New Zealand, Egypt and their own country South Africa, who will compete for the Confederations Cup title from 14-28 June 2009.
For Passen, his first official trip outside Johannesburg in his six months in the country was a significant one, as he was determined to celebrate the school's achievement of winning the regional football competition, as well as give the pupils a better understanding of the United States.
"You are not only a school of champions. You are in fact a school of double champions. I really hope I get to watch my province become the national champions," exclaimed Passen to the delighted kids, in reference to the upcoming national finals of the schools tournament which will see the four finalists from each province battle it out for the title of national champions in May this year.
For the players in the two teams their victory in the provincial finals was an important milestone, but they are all too aware that the national finals are coming up soon.
"I felt so good when we won but we are now training very hard for the national finals. It feels so good," said Reginah Olehile, a member of the under 14 girls team.
"It is great to have won, because I want the opportunity to play as much football as I can, I want to play professionally, I want to play for Bafana (South Africa)", said an excited forward for the U14 boys team, Omphile Lemphane.
For Lemphane the My 2010 Schools Campaign is not just about football though. The campaign also encourages the schools to teach learners more about their adopted countries.
"I am learning so much about America and now I want to go there myself. I want to meet Barack Obama,' said Lemphane, of a dream that's now just a little closer to reality.