Never in the 70-year history of this global soccer fiesta has the hope of Africans reached such a crescendo as in the 2010 edition. The moment when former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela broke the much-awaited news of the successful bid to host the tournament in Africa still evokes a feeling of nostalgia, after the rest of the world conspired to deny the continent its right to host the 2006 edition of the competition.
Besides the thrill and the glitz and glamour of witnessing the first-ever pilgrimage of world-best performers to the African stage, the African optimists are lured by the tournament’s tradition to proclaim 2010 as the continent’s best hope of soccer glory. They are inspired by the history established by the competition since its inception in 1930, that the competition has often favoured the host-continent.
This tradition is succinctly expressed by the trend established in the competition in the not too distant past. In 1986 Mexico, a South American country, hosted the competition and Argentina, a South American country, emerged the eventual winner. In the subsequent edition, the balance of power shifted to Europe - precisely Germany - who won it on European soil in Italy. In 1994, the competition traversed the Pacific Ocean to the USA, and Brazil from one of the Americas emerged the eventual winner. Four years later the competition went back to Europe - France hosted and won!
By far the clearest expression of this phenomenon of host and win was in 2002 when two dominant Asian states - Korea and Japan - hosted. The world witnessed an outpouring of Asian soccer passion which inspired Korea to an unprecedented semi-final berth. At the last global soccer fiesta, Europe maintained tradition and Italy won it on European territory, Germany.
Against this trend, it would be poetic injustice to deny Africa its due this time. Many have long-predicted Africa’s day of glory in the world’s most prestigious competition following the phenomenal progress of the African game over the last two decades.
Now, football is no longer considered merely a global sport but also a unifying force whose virtues can make an important contribution to society with the mission of building a better future using the immense power of the beautiful game. This mission gives meaning and direction to each and every activity – be it competitive, social or commercial.
The power of this sport has been used as a tool for strengthening social and human development.
And if nothing else, South Africa 2010 is expected to serve the purpose of reconciling the world with itself against the backdrop of being hosted on the soil where man’s inhumanity to man has been noted to have been extreme; the global soccer fiesta could help to douse its lingering fires into insignificance.
By all estimations, this could be Africa’s best World Cup ever. The countries representing the continent are currently the best, and the determination shown by all throughout their preparations cannot leave anyone in doubt that none are taking the tournament lightly.
The World Cup 2010 is an African World Cup and African countries should get involved; they should stay focused, never doubting that they are just as capable as any other team. Otherwise the purpose will be defeated with no long-lasting legacy.
After all the present crop of African players rub shoulders with the best in the world’s most competitive leagues - and they therefore cannot be intimidated by any of them.
The debacle of the Congo DR is long behind Africa, and with South Africa 2010 a bright new dawn beckons Africa into the glorious light of soccer, human feeling, and great hope for the future of mankind.
So, let’s not only look forward to the festival of football, but also to the other related incentives that can benefit our beloved motherland and the world at large.
We wish the host country well and pray the four week extravaganza will linger on the lips of people forever.