Africa's World Cup blasts off!

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Finally, all the talk is over and the World Cup 2010 got off to a flying start in South Africa last Friday. And what a jounrey so far after just 10 days! I must say it is quite relief to put an end to the questions that have been asked and propped up in the international media for so long now: Can they actually pull this off? Will the stadiums be ready? Will it be safe? Etc etc. The answers so far have been emphatic. Even in the pre-event concert at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on thursday evening, when rock pop jazz stars performed in front of a hugely fired up audience, and Desmond aka “The Arch” Tutu welcomed the world home to “Africa’s World Cup” in the Cradle of Humankind. The guy is a true legend. Much has been said a bout the “gees” of South Africans and this guy just embodies it.

And then it was Friday, 11 June 2010: the opening ceremony and the opening match; both held at the funky calabash style Soccer City in Johannesburg and watched by a capacity crowd of 90 000 people. The opening ceremony was quite smoething, visually spectacular, meaningful and very African. I could go into much detail, having watched it about 20 times since on tv: it is now my daughter’s favourite recorded tv show, known as “the dung beetle ceremony”. Then to the opening match: South Africa played Mexico and rose to the occasion, scoring the first goal of the tournament in style! This gave Bafana Bafana (and their 48 million supporters) huge relief (and belief) in their abilities. They eventually played to a 1-1 draw, having given an excellent account of themselves. So after that it was time to celebrate. And celebrate we did.

In Soweto, Cape Town and all around. In Cape Town, the vibe in the streets was just positive, huge and so good. People spontaneously dancing, singing and being generally joyous. Oh, and blowing their Vuvuzelas of course. The hottest topic of debate since the opening of the tournament, other than the WC Jabulani Adidas soccer ball! And after going to Cape Town Stadium to witness a game first hand I can testify that is hardly an issue. No ear plugs needed. All nuances could be heard when the crowd went ooh aah.

After that first weekend, waking up with a football hangover, as the stories of the previous days filtered back, so many people that I know said something to this effect:”Friday was hands-down one of the Best Days of My Life: those celebrations were like we’d WON the World Cup and we wouldn’t have to pay taxes for a year and there would be a lifetime of free beer for all South Africans!”

I actually starting writing this a week ago, but there has been such football fever gripping the host country since then, I have to confess to being somehwhat caught up in it all. It is fascinating to witness the world’s best footballers on our home turf, the scores of fans enjoying South African hospitality, the drama behind the scenes and on the field. There is a lot to enjoy.

Stand by for more on the World Cup 2010 as it unfolds.

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