In a few days time the biggest extravaganza of football, the FIFA Football World Cups kicks off with all glory in the virgin terrains of South Africa. It is the 19th Football World Cup and is touted to be the biggest till date. Also this is the first time that an African nation is hosting the World Cup. This World Cup that does not include any teams that are qualifying for the first time. Also another first is that there would be payments made by FIFA to the domestic clubs of the players representing their national teams at the tournament. Hosted in picturesque locations in South Africa, this World Cup is destined to be the most watched event in all sporting history.
South Africa was chosen as the host for the 2010 World Cup as part of a policy to rotate the event among football confederations. As a result South Africa has automatically qualified for the event. And also as an introduction, the defending champions Italy did not qualify automatically but had to play through the qualifiers. A total of 32 teams have qualified to play in this World Cup. In one of the pre-event controversies France scraped past Ireland in a questionable manner thanks to a hand ball which was the winning goal by the French captain Thierry Henry which the referee failed to notice. Ireland demanded a rematch but all their complaints were in vain. Barring a few other minor controversies, the lead up to the world cup has been pretty inconspicuous.
South Africa has become the sports Mecca because of major cricketing events such as the ICC Cricket World Cup and the IPL being held in recent times. It has fast grown into a developed nation studded with world class stadiums and sporting facilities. Public transport facilities have been upgraded and new projects like Gautrain and new Bus Rapid Transit System (BIRTS) titled Rea Vaya have been introduced. Safety and security have been taken care of, which includes restricting flight airspace near the stadiums. A large amount of money has been spent on the construction of five brand new football stadiums and renovation work is going on at the five old stadiums. The preparations have received considerable applause from FIFA officials.
The mascot of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is Zakumi , a green and yellow anthropomorphized leopard. And the official motto of this world cup is “Zakumi’s game is Fair Play”. The match ball is named “Zabulani” which means “bringing joy to everyone” in isiZulu language. A special match ball with gold panels will be used at the final held in Johannesburg. The ball will be called the “Jo’bulani”, playing off Johannesburg’s nickname of “The Golden City”. The balls are made in China and are the same as used in last year’s FIFA Club World Cup. The design has received considerable academic input, being developed in partnership with researchers from Loughborough University, United Kingdom.
However peaceful the preparations may be, they never ran out of controversies. The N2 Gateway Housing Project at Cape Town has led to the removal of 20,000 residents of the Joe Slovo Informal Settlement along the N2 Freeway to build rental flats in its place for the 2010 World Cup. The residents would be moved to the poverty stricken Delft Township on the outskirts of the city and out of sight from the N2 Freeway. There has been particular concern about forced removals to the Blikkiesdorp camp in Delft and that in Durban; children are being forcibly removed from the city centre.
Nevertheless the 2010 World Cup is expected to be a gala event and will be the most watched live event around the globe next month.