The first World Cup to be held in Africa can be the glue which binds a continent too often riven by conflict, according to the man in charge of organising the world’s most popular sporting event.In an interview with AFP, South Africa’s Local Organising Committee chief executive Danny Jordaan said the 2010 tournament was a perfect opportunity to showcase Africa and banish negative stereotypes.
“Sport in general has an impact that is uplifting to the people of this continent, especially the spirit, a glue that binds the nation. I think it is in that kind of context that one sees the value and the possibilities that this World Cup brings.”
With less than a thousand days before kick-off, Jordaan is frustrated at having to fend off repeated questions about whether preparations are on time and says doubts are more to do with outdated preconceptions.
“This is an African event … with the perception that is there around the African continent that Africa is not a continent that you can do business with,” says Jordaan, a former lawmaker for South Africa’s ruling ANC.
But while the oval ball remains largely the preserve of the white minority, football’s popularity transcends the racial divide and the national team’s success can be key to nation-building in the post-apartheid era.
“In a situation of conflict, you can use sport to heal. Take our country for example. We were a country at war with itself, war between blacks and whites … The thing that brought this country together was the fact that we hosted the rugby World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations, and we won.
FIFA’s recent decision to scrap the system under which the World Cup rotates between the six continental confederations means it could be decades before Africa gets another chance — adding to pressure on South Africa.
“If we deliver the best ever World Cup successfully for FIFA, then no one in this world can argue that African countries do not have the capabilities to deliver the best event.”