Media statement by President Jacob Zuma at the 2010 World Cup Host Country International Media Conference

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Presidential Guest House, Pretoria

Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
President of FIFA, Mr Sepp Blatter,
Chairman of the Local Organising Committee, Irvin Khoza
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Government and people of South Africa, it is my great honour to welcome the teams, soccer fans, tourists and the entire football fraternity to our beautiful country South Africa.
We are truly pleased and humbled to host the world in our country for this historical and extra-ordinary event.

Today, marks just four days before the kickoff of the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup, for the first time in the African continent.

We have come a long way in football development, since the first football match was reportedly played on 23 August 1862, at the site of what is now the Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town.
The love of football in this country dates that far back.

We have been preparing for the tournament since 15 May 2004, when Mr Sepp Blatter, carefully removed from an envelope, the card that named our country as the host of the 2010 World Cup.
We knew from that moment, that South Africa would never be the same again.
Today we recall how far we have come to reach this point as a nation that emerged from division and oppression in 1994, to a stable, united progressive non-racial constitutional democracy.
Today we recall with much appreciation, the support of the international community in the fight against apartheid.

In June 1976, FIFA took a profound decision to expel apartheid South Africa from international football due to racism in sport. Thank you for that foresight and solidarity.

Thirty four years later, we are working with FIFA as partners in ensuring the success of this most magnificent tournament.

We are doing so in a free non-racial society with a Constitution that enshrines human rights to ensure that this nation never returns to that painful past.
This is indeed a very special moment for South Africa, and Africa.
At this point it is proper for me to acknowledge and thank our founding President and icon Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, for his visionary leadership and statesmanship.
It is through his tireless efforts to achieve reconciliation and to build a thriving rainbow nation that the world bestowed South Africa with this honour of hosting the games.
He also worked hard personally, to bring us to this glorious moment.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me sincerely thank FIFA President, my friend Mr Sepp Blatter. When Afro-pessimists and others expressed doubts at certain points along the way, he consistently expressed his confidence in our ability to host a successful event.

It will be a great privilege to bestow our national Order of the Companions of OR Tambo on President Blatter tomorrow at the official welcome dinner hosted by government.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today we pay a special tribute to all South Africans. It is thanks to their spirit of forgiveness, tolerance and the ability to unite in diversity, that we were able to bury apartheid and work together to build a new non-racial democracy.

The enthusiasm, joy and excitement that has engulfed the entire nation in recent weeks has not been witnessed since President Mandela was released from prison.
The South African flag has become the most popular item on the shopping list of South Africans, and this augurs well for nation building.

This explosion of national pride is a priceless benefit of the World Cup tournament.
It is clear that millions of our people have waited for years and look upon this tournament with hope, pride and a sense of belonging.

Sport has always played an important role in our historical mission to build a united, non-racial and prosperous South Africa and a better world.
Almost all sporting codes in our country such as rugby and cricket have made a contribution to build social cohesion and human solidarity.

South Africa is more than ready. For us the World Cup has already begun. Last Saturday Soweto hosted its first Super 14 Rugby Final.

We witnessed how the World Cup fever has spread to other sports codes. It was the first time that our famous vuvuzela horns resounded throughout a rugby match.

Our national team Bafana Bafana is ready and is in fighting form. We beat Guatemala last week and Denmark yesterday. That is a sign of things to come!

Ladies and gentlemen,

Many ask what will be left behind after the final whistle at a tangible level other than social cohesion. A most visible legacy of this World Cup is the infrastructure.

Our country is changing as we deliver magnificent stadia, roads, airports and communication systems.

We salute our construction workers, some of whom worked extra hours to ensure that the stadia are ready on time.

There are a also a number of development projects throughout Africa, to make it a truly African World Cup. Fifty two football pitches are being built in communities across South Africa, and another 52 around the African continent.

These will serve as hubs for sport and community development and take the promotion of football to another level. Forty four stadiums have already been constructed in Africa, while another nine have been completed in South Africa.

The Football for Hope campaign will see 20 centres of education, public health and football being built across Africa.

For us, education has to be the most important spin-off. Mr Blatter and I share the passion for education, and for the 1Goal Education campaign, of which he is co-chair.

As government we plan to host a 1Goal Education campaign summit on the 7th of July on the sidelines of the semi-finals in Cape Town.

If implemented successfully, this project will enable 72 million African children who do not attend primary school currently to do so.

It will be one of the most lasting legacies of the 2010 World Cup and we urge all nations of the world and the private sector internationally to support this campaign.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to urge all our visitors not only to enjoy the games but also to experience the full warmth and hospitality of South Africa and its marvelous landscape.

We pride ourselves on the unique attractions that we offer, with our nine provinces presenting a rich tapestry of experiences, all with a uniquely African spirit.

With eight World Heritage Sites, including Robben Island and the Cradle of Humankind, the warm golden beaches of KwaZulu-Natal, the Cape wine route, the game parks of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, and a host of others, our visitors will be fully occupied between matches.
We encourage the visiting media to travel around the country and meet our people. Tell us your stories, and listen to ours. We have a lot to learn from each other. You are most welcome in our country.

Ladies and gentlemen, we will also be hosting very special guests during the tournament.
His Excellency President Felipe Calderon of Mexico has graciously accepted our invitation to attend the opening match between South Africa and Mexico on the 11th of June.
We will earlier that day hold talks to strengthen bilateral relations. We will need to avoid the subject of football!

We have said continuously that this is an African World Cup. We are expecting a number of African Heads of States and Government, as well as former Presidents from the SADC region. With six African teams playing, we are determined to ensure that this Cup stays on this continent!
We will also host a few eminent persons from various parts of the world who worked tirelessly with us during the struggle against apartheid.

We will also have the honour of hosting President Lula da Silva of Brazil on a State visit on 9-10 July. This will further boost our bilateral relations as well as the India-Brazil-South Africa relationship.

I cannot miss the opportunity to thank all who have worked hard to bring us this far.
We thank former President Thabo Mbeki for his leadership of the project during his term of office.
We acknowledge the tireless work of the Local Organising Committee led by Dr Irvin Khoza and his team including the CEO Danny Jordaan as well as all staff who work behind the scenes to make things happen. The long hours of hard work have finally paid off. The nation is proud of you!

We thank the Inter-Ministerial Task Team led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
It is now all systems go. Well done South Africa! Well done FIFA, Well done to the world!
Let the games begin on Friday!
I thank you!