Address by President Jacob Zuma at the State Banquet welcoming the FIFA family

Monday, June 7, 2010

Gallagher Estate, Midrand, Johannesburg

Honourable Ministers, Premiers, Deputy Ministers,
FIFA President Sepp Blatter and the entire FIFA family,
President of SAFA,
Chairperson and CEO of the Local Organising Committee,
Distinguished guests,
Fellow South Africans,

This week marks a historic moment in the life of our country and for Africa.
We are a mere four days away from the first ever FIFA World Cup on African soil.
I am privileged to welcome my brother and good friend, FIFA President Sepp Blatter and the entire FIFA family to this country.

After many years of planning and hard work, we can tonight celebrate the long road we have journeyed together in our preparations for this first African World Cup.

After FIFA awarded us the opportunity to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup on 15 May 2004, we embraced the tasks that you entrusted to us, working together as a nation.

The hosting of the 2010 World Cup has helped us consolidate the gains we achieved after attaining freedom in 1994.

The journey that we travelled to achieve our freedom and democracy is marked by the struggles and sacrifices of many South Africans.

We now proudly say that we are one nation united in its diversity, with a Constitution which declares that South Africa belongs to all who live in it.

That nation is celebrating like never before. South Africa has come alive, and will never be the same again after this World Cup!

Whilst onlookers may reflect on South Africa as a "Miracle", it is one that was fought for through many years of struggle and negotiation.

It is the sacrifices and suffering of many South Africans that brought us to the point where the international community could entrust us with such a responsibility.

It is the sacrifices of our African brothers and sisters on the continent, the diaspora and indeed many in the world over.

They refused to rest until South Africa was free of apartheid oppression. The World Cup is their celebration too.

As we celebrate FIFA's presence here this evening, we recall the time when you supported us in our struggle for freedom.

This was when we rejoiced in FIFA's decision to impose sanctions against South Africa in 1976 as a necessary action in adding weight to our struggle for freedom.

During those difficult years, football helped to keep our aspirations alive. Communities celebrated football in their own ways and played tournaments on the dusty streets and forged grounds with makeshift footballs.

Football is in our veins, it is in the bloodstream of our people. That is why FIFA has had its hands full with the demands for tickets.

The challenge for employers is to ensure that there is some productivity at work this month!
After the final whistle, we have to ensure through effective development programmes, that football becomes a truly unifying and meaningful sport for our people as part of the legacy of the World Cup.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our preparations for the World Cup over the last six years have demonstrated greater efficiency, focus and integration in how we execute projects.

Thanks to the tournament, we have invested in infrastructure that will help us to position South Africa as a country of choice for investment and business interests. This, you will further appreciate as you move around our beautiful country.
The infrastructure development will continue as part of the World Cup legacy to benefit all South Africans in years to come and enable all citizens to have improved access to services and infrastructure.

But there is the most important legacy that we want this tournament to leave behind. That is expanded access to primary school education for African children in the continent. That is why we are hosting a high level education summit on the 7th of July in Cape Town.
We will be supporting the 1Goal Education for all Campaign whose co-chairs are Mr Sepp Blatter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Her Majesty Queen Rania of the Kingdom of Jordan.

We will be asking Heads of State and Government as well as the private sector to invest in education, and ensure that 72 million disadvantaged children are able to go to school.

Mr Blatter, we welcome you and the FIFA family acknowledging your positive work for social change through football in Africa.

FIFA's 'Build a better future' initiative is aimed at reaching beyond football. It uses football's potential for human and social development, the promotion of health, the development of communities and the promotion of peace by supporting local organisations who work in these fields.

Your championing of the 1 Goal Education campaign is in this mould.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We could not have reached all these accomplishments without the dedication of thousands of South Africans who toiled to ensure a world class event.

There were many times during these six years when we were told the challenge for our country was far too great.

We refused to listen to pessimists as we knew we could deliver a world class event and make Africa proud, with the support of Africa and the international community.

Our construction workers remain our greatest heroes. They worked long hours to finish the stadiums. They are still toiling to this day on the infrastructure which will last beyond the World Cup. We are proud of them.

Thanks to their sweat, South Africa has become the stage, and Africa the theatre, where our people now assume their rightful place in the family of nations.
We are indeed proud to say to the world welcome to South Africa.

Each day many more teams, soccer fans and tourists arrive. We will share with our guests our welcoming spirit of Ubuntu - our African philosophy of relationship, humanity and interconnectedness to each other. We will forge deeper relationships with the world.

Hopefully, many visitors will also learn the diski dance - our very own 2010 World Cup dance, and will dance to our proudly South African music.

Experience our African hospitality. Explore our beautiful country and interact with our arts, cultures, heritage and enjoy our African food!
Let this be a truly unforgettable African experience.

Distinguished guests,

We congratulate all qualifying nations especially the five qualifying African nations, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Cote d''Ivoire and Algeria.

To all participating African countries, especially the players, you carry the hopes of all Africans on your shoulders. The instruction to African teams is unambiguous. The trophy must remain in the African continent!

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

We could not miss this opportunity to register our acknowledgement of the support provided by the FIFA President to this young democracy in the preparations for this World Cup.

We are pleased that this evening we will be able to bestow the Order of the Companions of O R Tambo award on President Blatter.

It is awarded to citizens of the world who have actively promoted the interests and aspirations of South Africa, through excellent cooperation and active expression of solidarity and support.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the FIFA Family, and the international community,
I want to reiterate what the South African bid book proclaimed. "Africa's time has come, and South Africa is ready". Ke Nako!
The moment we have been waiting for has come; let us make the most of it.
I thank you.