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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Will World Cup Soccer Makes Africa Proud?

FIFA president Sepp Blatter believes that South Africa will silence even its shrewdest detractors during the 2010 soccer World Cup.

Blatter, who is on a two-day visit to the country to assess the progress made by the South African 2010 Local Organising Committee, yesterday emphasised Fifa’s confidence in South Africa.

He said the event would afford South Africa an opportunity to show the rest of the world what Africa can do in organising events of such magnitude.

“I believe that South Africa will organise a tournament that everyone in this country and in Africa will be proud of. I’m not a prophet but I can tell you that this is going to be a great soccer World Cup,” he said.

“In the six weeks of the tournament, all the world’s eyes will be on South Africa and I have no doubt in my mind that South Africa will deliver on its promise.”

Expressing Fifa’s support, he said: “We (Fifa) want to make this event something Africa will be proud of. (But) South Africa must do it the Africa way.”

Addressing the business sector during a conference in Johannesburg on business opportunities, Blatter said he believed the 2010 World Cup would exceed all expectations.

“If there has been any doubt, please consult Fifa and look at some headlines in the newspapers which say, ‘Only God can take the World Cup’ away from South Africa. This is more than a message. We want to root out any doubt that exists in South Africa’s progress. There is nothing to worry about for business people,” he said.

Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka assured Blatter that South Africa was making steady progress.

She predicted that the event – regarded as the greatest on the sporting calendar – would spur an economic boom.

“We must use the tournament to position Africa as a dynamic and developing continent. The success that we achieve will be crucial for our ratings on the international scene. The construction and other (World Cup) activities will contribute towards the growth.”

She said she has been assured by Blatter that the world football governing body was happy and impressed by South Africa’s preparations.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said it was imperative that the World Cup be used as a tool to change the lives of ordinary South Africans by empowering them.

“What we want to see is change for our people, we want to know how is this one-time opportunity going to improve lives and put food on the table. Although I understand that there can only be a few (big) consortiums that will build stadiums, I believe we should work together with Fifa to make sure that ordinary South Africans’ lives are changed.

“We have to find a way to balance between the big business and the small businesses which are close to my heart,” she said.

***DISPATCH NEWS

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