'Africa's calling' kicks off road to South Africa 2010
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Chairman of the African Union Commission Alpha Oumar Konare, the President of the Republic of South Africa Thabo Mbeki, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, CAF President Issa Hayatou and a whole host of other high-ranking dignitaries were in attendance to mark the official start of the journey to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa at the "Africa's calling" event today (7 July 2006) in Berlin. The ceremony, which included a show that had a truly African flavour, concluded with the unveiling of the official emblem for world football's flagship competition when it is held on African soil for the first time in 2010.
"This is indeed an exciting day, not only for all Africans, but for all lovers of the universal language of football. The international community can be envious of the FIFA World Cup, and should learn from the spirit of teamwork and fair play that the most universal of sports stands for," said Annan, who also congratulated Germany on staging the best World Cup of all time.
Underlining the symbolic nature of the event and the eagerness of his nation to welcome football fans from around the world, Thabo Mbeki stressed: "The 2010 FIFA World Cup will constitute a tribute to the effort, not only of South Africa, but of all Africa, to recover from many centuries of difficulties. Despite our problems, football has provided an inspiration to overcome those problems. Africa is ready, Africa's calling, come to South Africa in 2010"
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter was keen to reiterate his support for the South African organisers and his ultimate goals for the 2010 event. "With the enthusiasm shown here today, we are already walking to Africa and South Africa in 2010," he said. "In the next four years, your messages to the world will be our messages, and together we will be able to make Africa and the world a better place."
The event served as the launchpad for a four-year project entitled "Win in Africa with Africa" that has been initiated by Mbeki and Blatter and with which FIFA intends to ensure that the entire African continent benefits from the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Speaking on behalf of people across his entire continent, Alpha Oumar Konare had a profound message: "This day is a day of pride and responsibility for all of Africa. We are here to celebrate Africa and football, it is a time of happiness and passion. This opportunity will grant us a chance to together build a better image of Africa, of peace and friendship."
"Let me express the joy of all the African people. Today is a great day for us, the African people, and we can be proud and sure that South Africa will stage a great FIFA World Cup," added Issa Hayatou in an emphatic expression of solidarity.
The South African Local Organising Committee for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, led by its chairman, Dr Irvin Khoza, and its CEO, Dr Danny Jordaan, organised the special event at the Tempodrom in Berlin. The eleven football ambassadors of the tournament, who comprise some of the greatest African players of all-time including Abedi Pelé, Roger Milla and Lucas Radebe, all took part in the proceedings.
"This event has been a world class beginning to an African World Cup that must represent a celebration of the best that our continent can offer and present a new face of the African continent. One of peace, progress and excellence," commented Dr Danny Jordaan, CEO of the South African organising committee for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
An exhibition showcased the nine official venues for the 2010 tournament and a diverse programme of entertainment included Football Stomp, a storytelling act recounting the history and legend of the official emblem, and a performance by three African tenors.