Today, on South African Youth Day, Zakumi celebrates his 16th birthday. The Official Mascot of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ marked the occasion with a party with some South African boys and girls in Soweto, Johannesburg. Cake, candles, songs and, of course, football – nothing was missing on Zakumi’s special day. A local football star, Daine Klate, even came along to offer his congratulations and join in the game of football.

The kids are participating in a one-week holiday programme organised by Grassroot Soccer. The programme is called Skillz Practice and focuses on school-based life skills and HIV prevention. Grassroot Soccer is playing its part in implementing the Football for Hope programme and the host of the Khayelitsha Football for Hope Centre in Cape Town.

In the morning session, where children learnt about the transmission of HIV, Zakumi surprised everyone by joining them at the Leresche Primary School. The school is situated in Soweto, right across the road from the Orlando Stadium, where the opening concert took place last Thursday. A little later, Daine Klate joined the birthday party. The Supersport United midfielder and former Bafana Bafana player congratulated Zakumi on his birthday and together they blew out candles and ate some cake with the kids.

Afterwards, the children started to play ‘Fair Play Football’, a game where fair play rules and every goal is celebrated frantically by both teams as well as the fans. As an additional birthday present, Zakumi learned on his special day that he had been voted ‘coolest mascot’ in a recent survey of African youth.

South Africa 2010’s Official Mascot was hugely privileged to receive this honour, but is even happier that hosting this year’s FIFA World Cup has been voted as the number one reason for this generation of South African youngsters feeling optimistic about their future. In the survey of South Africans between the ages of eight and 22 – an age group that makes up 50 per cent of the country’s population - the tournament was seen to represents happiness and the chance to elevate South Africa on the global stage.