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The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has strongly urged South Africa’s 2010 FIFA World Cup organisers to grab the powerful opportunity to use the tournament to change Africa’s image.

“There is great power in this (South Africa’s hosting of Africa’s first FIFA World Cup). It is a time to present a different story of the African continent, a story of peace, democracy and investment,” the UN Secretary General told South Africa’s 2010 chief executive, Dr Danny Jordaan, in a meeting at Mr Ban’s UN offices in New York this week.

The UN Secretary General fondly remembered his native Korea Republic co-hosting Asia’s first FIFA World Cup with Japan in 2002 and said the tournament was about far more than the 90 minutes on the pitch and was an event which touched every corner of the globe.

Noting the past conflicts in his own country, he said the game of football in particular, above all other sports, unified people and built solidarity and consensus – which he believed would be the case when South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup in June and July next year.

“The World Cup is a dream that began in 1994, the first year of our democracy, and is part of our ongoing efforts as a nation to build unity in our country,” Jordaan told the Secretary General.

In an important week for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa, all members of the United Nations General Assembly this week passed a resolution to endorse next year’s event in South Africa as a platform for social development and peace across the African continent. Dr Jordaan thanked the UN Secretary General for his assistance in helping South Africa take the message of hope to the world.

“Peace is not just the absence of war. Peace is creating circumstances that create hope. The legacy of this World Cup embarks on changing the circumstances of many people through its social legacy projects, job creation and advancements in telecommunications and infrastructure,” Dr Jordaan said to Mr Ban during the meeting.

Dr Jordaan invited Mr Ban to attend the 2010 FIFA World Cup next year and later said at a media function at the South African Consulate in New York it was important that the UN Secretary General attended the tournament.

"The UN Secretary General must not only come to the continent when there is war, when he wants to talk about Darfur. He must come to Africa when Africa celebrates, when Africa excels. When there is good news, he must always be there,” said Dr Jordaan.

South Africa’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Baso Sangqu, said he was very pleased with the support received for the country’s 2010 FIFA World Cup efforts from the United Nations General Assembly.

“This resolution is the first of its kind and underpins the global support to the commitment of South Africa to not just make this another sporting event, but to ensure that it is based on the agenda for peace, development and stability for Africa – in the hope that these benefits will trickle through far beyond the final whistle. This resolution will continue to energise and engage the United Nations to walk this path with South Africa and Africa,” said Mr Sangqu.

“More than ever, we are beginning to see the legacy of this event take shape and it is given more impact and impetus to have the endorsement of all the 192 member states of the General Assembly,” said Dr Jordaan, who made a 2010 update presentation to the UN’s General Assembly, with emphasis on the legacy benefits of the tournament for the African continent.

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