If there is one thing the 2010 World Cup in South Africa has proven conclusively, it is that an African country can host the biggest football showpiece on earth, and successfully too. For several months before the commencement of the championship, commentators who have never been to the continent had a field day from the comfort of their cosy offices in Europe, speculating about the readiness of South Africa to host.
On countless occasions, the Organising Committee (OC) chief executive, Danny Jordaan, was at pains to counter such negative comments, insisting that South Africa would deliver a master class performance. Those nay sayers know better now, as the African Mundial has been nothing but a huge success.
Infrastructure was top rate – transportation, communication and stadiums. Indeed, the stadiums were fantastic, both the refurbished ones like Ellis Park, and the newly constructed ones like Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. They boasted media centres with the kind of internet access which made the job of journalists a delight. Security, which was a big issue ahead of the competition, was also taken care off. Even when the organisation originally billed to provide security went on strike, regular police took charge without much ado.
The atmosphere the South Africans managed to create, even before the tournament started, was one of a huge party. Germany 2006 was great but this experience has been even better. The South Africans did not just embrace this World Cup, they enhanced it. For that reason, it should go down in history as one of the best ever.
Not even the early exit of the hosts deterred the fans as they adopted other teams and trooped to the stadiums; fears that were initially entertained in this respect were promptly forgotten in the face of such near-capacity attendances. The electric atmosphere the fans were able to conjure inside the stadiums, with non-stop vuvuzela sound is better witnessed than imagined. This was a new phenomenon at the World Cup, and although forever whining Europeans tried to instigate its ban, FIFA refused to budge. FIFA Fan Fest in host cities with giant screens where fans without tickets could watch matches, added glamour to the whole spectacle. This and all the other aspects certainly brought South Africans of all races together. We hope that this spirit of togetherness is fostered even more strongly in the years ahead.
President Jacob Zuma, while praising the sense of national unity the tournament has brought, noted the improvements in the country’s infrastructure together with the other economic benefits.
”The investment in stadiums created an estimated 66,000 new construction jobs. The R1.3-billion spent on safety and security includes a permanent addition of 40,000 new policemen and women,” he told an investment conference in Cape Town.
We hope that these magnificent edifices will not only be properly maintained but also fully engaged. Indeed the City of Durban, home to the beautiful Moses Mabhida Stadium, is already thinking of hosting the 2020 Olympics. Anti apartheid icon and former South African President, Nelson Mandela, was one of the 84,490 fans inside the Soccer City Stadium on 11 July, to see Spain beat Holland in the final.
One valuable lesson Nigeria can learn from the South African experience is that it is not enough to build infrastructure; making provision for their maintenance is just as important. Virtually all the stadiums used for the World Youth Championship in 1999 were already in a terrible state of disrepair when the country hosted the Under 17 World Cup 10 years later. That is not the way to go. It is inexcusable for a country desirous to be regarded highly in the comity of nations.