More than 84,000 people witnessed the dawn of a new chapter in South Africa’s history when the 2010 FIFA World Cup kicked off in true African style today.
From as early as 09h00 excited Mexican and South African football supporters started making their way to Soweto’s “football calabash” in anticipation of what was to come.
Despite the early morning cold, fans were in a festive mood as the Mexican "Matraca”, (a wooden accessory that makes noise when rotated) met the South African vuvuzela in a test of noise.
It wasn’t long however before these supporters got to see Africa’s most magnificent stadium when gates opened at 10h30.
And following a magnificent opening ceremony which showcased the music and culture of African fans were treated to an exciting opening encounter which ended 1-1 at full time.
The atmosphere in the stadium matched that which has been seen on the streets of South African cities in the build up to 11 June.
Chief Executive Officer of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa Dr Danny Jordaan thanked South Africans and visitors to the country for their unbelievable support after the match.
“We couldn’t have asked for more. A capacity stadium, a host nation with a will to win, an incredible atmosphere and spectacular football. It is just fantastic that the first goal of Africa’s first World Cup went to South Africa, we really couldn’t have written a better script,” said Jordaan.
Before the first game of the tournament got going South African president Jacob Zuma addressed the 84 490 strong crowd who carried a message from former State President Nelson Mandela who tragically lost his great granddaughter last night.
“Let me convey a message from Madiba our icon who wanted to come and greet you before the start of the match but unfortunately his family was hit by a tragedy. He said ‘The game must start, you must enjoy the game.”
Zuma then officially opened the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“We as a country, we are humbled by this opportunity. Africa is indeed happy. This is the African World Cup. The time for Africa has come, it has arrived, Ke Nako. Allow me ladies and gentlemen to say I am more than privileged to be given opportunity to declare the 2010 FIFA World Cup open.”
Jordaan was not the only one who was impressed with the atmosphere inside Soccer City.
Julio Mendez who hails from Mexico City said he was impressed by the number of Bafana Bafana supporters who had come out to support their team.
“The stadium is very impressive and the atmosphere is perfect, it’s more yellow than we expected it to be.”
Adina Neumann, also from Mexico City, said the din in Soccer City was nothing new to Mexican football supporters.
”Everything is great the people are very friendly and the game was very entertaining. The vuvuzelas are fine. You think Mexicans aren’t use to the noise? We are noisier. ”
Despite the draw Bafana Bafana supporters were still happy.
Nlandie Nel from Joburg said: “It was an excellent day. The stadium is superb and Bafana’s performance was very impessive.”
Match day two of the tournament will kickoff at 13h30 tomorrow when Korea Republic takes on Greece in Nelson Mandela Bay. That match will be followed by Argentina vs Nigeria at Ellis Park in Johannesburg at 16h00 and USA vs England in Rustenburg at 20h30.