The 2010 FIFA World Cup is imminent and for the first time in the tournaments prodigious history, it will be hosted by an African nation in South Africa, a decision that was made by the awarding body in 2004, to the delight of millions of Africans. In the time since being granted the right to host the World Cup and now, South Africa has undergone its fair share of optimistic praise and skepticism about its ability to stage such a global event.
But President of the 2010 World Cup organizing committee Danny Jordaan has been robust in repelling the cynics and was only recently reinforcing the positive impact such an event will bring to Africa and the host nation in particular ahead of the competition, saying “It’s about further investment in the country, growth in trade and economic opportunities.” Six years on the talking is nearly over and the football is about to begin and African football fans have never been so buoyant about their nations chances with home advantage for the first time in history.
Algeria, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and South Africa make up the African contingent at this year’s World Cup. African football has been on the rise in the last decade and fans will be hoping the growth of the game in Africa will reach its summit in this year’s tournament. Pundits globally are already predicting an African team to progress beyond the quarter final stage for the first time since Senegal reached that stage in the 2002 in Korea and Japan.
South Africans in particular will be hoping that being the host nation will have a similar effect it did on Korea when they exceeded expectations by reaching the semi-final stage 8 years ago. Former South Africa striker Shaun Bartlett is one of many to have championed the potential of home success this year. “Winning the World Cup would be one of the proudest moments in the history of that country and our continent as a whole,”
And the hopefulness amongst Africans is duly warranted. There are more African footballers playing the professional game in the biggest and best leagues across Europe today than ever before and many are hoping this is an advantage that can be capitalized on.
The likes of Didier Drogba, Arouna Koné, Samuel Eto’o, Yaya Toure, Jean Makoun and Matthew Amoah are just some of the many African representatives plying their trade in the premier divisions of England, Germany, Italy, Spain, France and the Netherlands.
African soccer legend Abedi Pele has gone as far as stating an African team will lift the Cup for the first time in the tournament’s history at the final on July 11th in Johannesburg. “Here in Africa we will definitely have one team that will go far — and when I say go far I mean as far as getting the trophy. When I say this people laugh, but I believe it.”
No World Cup has ever been more anticipated than this one for more than football related reasons. Whatever happens, history has already been made, but any winner originating from the African continent this year could still have the power to unite communities, people, a generation and even an entire continent.