Optimism and positive attitudes in Cape Town are inspiring confidence in the ability of South Africa to host a successful World Cup.
I’m a proud South African, and it pains me to read articles and see news stories on television which portray my country as some sort of a disease infested, crime ridden war zone which was awarded 2010 hosting rights out of pity, and will not be ready in time.
The name ‘rainbow nation’ says it all. This is a happy place. A land where people greet strangers while walking in the streets, and the wounds of the past are healing nicely. A country where children feel safe, and a helping hand is never far from reach. This is not to say that I live in a land of cup cakes, marshmallows and teddy bears. We have our problems with crime and transport, but what country in the world is truly problem free? Is there such a place? It is a simple fact of life that crime is a problem that pollutes the world, and not just South Africa.
Before one visits the country thoughts of crime and danger are associated with the place, but spending time in Mzansi (as it is affectionately known) will show you just how wrong you were to listen to journalists and media ‘authorities’ who knew very little about a true gem.
Sepp Blatter may generally be considered somewhat of a fool, but the decision to allow South Africa to show the world what it can do in 2010 was a masterstroke in my eyes, and I applaud him for standing up for the country when certain segments of the media put pressure on him to switch the World Cup to Australia or Germany. He has been a soldier for the cause, but it is disappointing that the country at the southern tip of Africa needed and still needs to do so much convincing, when clearly we deserve to host next year’s event.
Apart from the fact that the World Cup has never been held on the African continent, and South Africa stands out as the place with the best infrastructure, stadiums and capabilities to run the event as smoothly as possible, the Local Organising Committee earned the right to have it here, narrowly losing out to Germany in the 2006 bid. And South Africa will be ready.
The stadiums are amazing, and it is a proud moment every time a foreign journalist asks me about the progress of the venues, and I am able to explain the special parts of each stadium, with the cable car arch at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, the ring of fire lighting at the Cape Town Stadium, or the Calabash and Giraffe designs at Soccer City and Mbombela Stadiums respectively.
South Africans can see the World Cup on the horizon and this is even more prominent with the Final Draw happening at the moment, as the fans are getting their first taste of the big show. With infrastructure, roads, airports and even telecommunications being improved ahead of the event, fans are getting excited, and conversations in bank queues, shopping malls and gyms inevitably turn to the anticipation for a tournament which will bring the cream of the footballing crop to the country.
Football Fridays are gaining momentum, with South Africans donning the shirts of their favourite football nations or clubs in support of the beautiful game, and the knowledge that soon the icons who wear those same kits for a living will be in our land, and they will leave having spent a few weeks in Africa, with fond memories of the warmth of the people and the beauty of their surroundings.
I know countless people who have moved to other countries around the world, from the UK, to the US, New Zealand, Australia and Germany, they are all in different parts of the globe, but they all have one thing in common, they miss South Africa.
There is something about this country that simply cannot be explained, and living here or visiting for a while is an experience that few can deny steals a part of your heart. I am Italian of origin, but I was born in this country, and I am so proud of the strides that it has made in the last few years, and of how far we have come as a nation.
The World Cup in 2010 gives every South African an opportunity to show the world what a beautiful, memorable and exciting country we live in, with such welcoming and friendly people going about their daily lives with a smile on their faces and a spring in their step.
Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe it’s the fact that there is so much potential in this place, and life is good, but I have no doubt that in July next year, the watching world will be smiling with us, and South Africa will have changed many minds during the greatest show on earth, in Africa.
Peter Pedroncelli, Goal.com