Social Ties Within South Africa
South Africa’s official campaign of the 2010 FIFA World Cup was launched in 2007 with the aim to create 20 community centers around Africa to provide public health, education and football facilities in the hopes that the game would be able to attract young people who would then benefit from the services of the centers. The 20 Centers for 2010 project is part of the Football for Hope movement and the first South African center opens near Cape Town and integrates football with HIV prevention programs aimed at offering young South Africans the skills and information they need to remain HIV free.

The Football for Hope movement runs over 80 social development program in more than 50 countries under the FIFA umbrella. In the South African centers football teams made up of local boys and girls will play in tournaments as part of the Football for Hope Festival bringing much-needed fun and education to the townships.

Sport has the unique ability to help people forget about their differences and enjoyed a shared experience. For example at the 2009 FIFA under 20s World Cup in Egypt, Ghana won against Brazil and everyone ran into the streets and began celebrating together, delighted simply that an African team had won. Similarly in Germany during the 2006 World Cup residents sang the national anthem and hung flags from their homes and cars and it is just not possible to invoke that kind of enthusiasm or passion through politics.

In preparation for the World Cup for new artificial pitches were installed in Africa, ensuring opportunities for the development of young players so they can train a home and go on to take on the world. Additional infrastructure is being implemented to professionalize football in Africa and ensure meaningful development opportunities for young players and there is a lot of work to be done. Through initiatives in Tanzania for example there are now 200,000 players but as President Tenga points out, ‘in reality there are several million playing around the country. We have to be in a position to welcome them all, teach them, and make sure that the most talented are not lost to the game’.

Cultural Reasons for Hosting the World Cup
For years African players have been snapped up by the leagues in wealthier countries as additions to winning soccer teams, and with the World Cup being held in an African country for the first time the biggest sporting community in the world has finally recognized Africa as an equal in the world game. No one expects that hosting the World Cup will be able to instantly overcome the problems facing South Africa such as illness, poverty or a literacy, the important thing is that these issues are highlighted and other major governments and bodies are inspired to work alongside Africa to achieve change.

Healing Old Divides
Of course Africa is not the only country to have ever had cultural issues, and prior to the 1998 World Cup hosted in France the country was labeled as ‘the most racially troubled country in Europe’ and the French team, which was made up of immigrant players from a number of different backgrounds, was heaped with verbal attacks from right-wing politicians who criticized the choice of African players on the French team. Unfortunately for the critics the French team won the tournament and as a result all of the players became revered. Time magazine was even quoted as saying ‘the soccer team did more to promote racial tolerance in France, and pride and a sense of belonging amongst its immigrant population, than anything the government could have ever done’ and the team captain Zinedine ‘Zizou’ Zindane, who was an ethnic Algerian, became a national hero and a household name.

Political Benefits to Hosting the World Cup
South Africa has taken more than a decade to prepare for the 2010 World Cup and while the country has hosted a number of important and international sporting events since its liberation in 1994 none have been on a scale such is this. It is important to recognize ‘the trust and confidence’ which has been bestowed on South Africa in the words of FIFA President Joseph S Blatter, as South Africa has been given the chance to promote itself on the world stage and pull off a memorable tournament and insure a legacy for the entire continent.

In a country which suffered under apartheid it may come as a surprise to learn of the role which sport played in helping South Africa overthrow this crushing and unjust regime. South Africa was divided into distinctive classes with vastly different legal and social rights in the early 1960s, and was battling with both internal resistance and growing international condemnation. FIFA took its first stand against these injustices in 1961 when a suspended the all white Football Association of South Africa (FASA) from international competition, and continued to petition the South African government to abandon its racist policies and in 1976 expelled FASA from the Association.

The growing pressure of political and economic sanctions, coupled with those imposed by other professional sports authorities meant that negotiations finally took place with the help of Nelson Mandela. In 1991 Mandela encouraged FIFA to lift the ban on international football which acted as a signal to the world that South Africa and was ready to honor its promise to establish a democracy for all its citizens.

In July 1992 the South African national football team emerged and though they were unknown, they were not without talent and secured an unexpected 1-0 win over Cameroon at Durban’s Kings Park. More success on the football field and ensured that the world knew the South African football team was one to watch. Though South Africa missed out on the 2006 World Cup, Mandela himself addressed the voting members of FIFA to tell them it would be a ‘dream come true’ if his country could host the World Cup. With the bid won and the stadiums ready and waiting there are already talks of South Africa further exercising its sporting prowess by playing host to Africa’s first ever Olympic games.

For anyone who thought the World Cup was just about a few games of soccer, tuning in to the coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa is sure to change your mind. As well as marveling at the plays, celebrating with the victors and commiserating with the losers, you will be inspired by the passion, dedication and spirit of every South African, proud to welcome you to their country; and see just one small part of the work FIFA strives to perfect, to make big changes to equality and the integration of nations.

This article was written by Timothy Ng who is a regular personal finance writer and part of the team at Credit Card Finder, a 100% free Australian credit card comparison and application service. Visit the Credit Card Finder website for more information, or subscribe to their RSS feed for more practical articles.
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