Welcome to South Africa- it’s possible
By Chidi Emmanuel
‘Yes we can’ -The road to South Africa
KUWAIT: After years of unrelenting hard work and intense global scrutiny of its ability to deliver, the ‘Rainbow Nation’ is telling the world ‘Yes We Can.’ South Africa has produced 11 World Cup stadia - matching and exceeding international standards. In an exclusive interview with the Kuwait Times, the South African Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in Kuwait, Ashraf Y Suliman told us about the long road to the South Africa 2010 World Cup, revealing that the country took its first steps on this road some years ago.
“In 2006, South Africa came very close to earning the right to host the FIFA World Cup, but lost to Germany by 12 votes to 11. Undaunted by the disappointment of losing the 2006 race, South Africa threw itself back into the bidding fray with renewed vigor and willpower,” he said. “Although we narrowly lost the chance in 2006 we kept the hope and the dream alive. Our ‘Bid Book’ spoke for us during the bidding and gave us an upper hand over other African contestants.” The ambassador explained, “We already had eight stadia even before we started bidding for the 2010 World Cup. The infrastructures were of international standards, which gave us a base to successfully lobby for the big game.”
Suliman recalled how South Africa secured the hosting right: “To boost our chances, South Africa submitted a declaration to FIFA to issue all the guarantees required in accordance with the requirement lists,” he explained. “It made a commitment to FIFA to start Schools of Excellence in various African regions. With the infrastructures in place, we stood tall among other contestants. After the voting, South Africa got 14 votes, Morocco received 10 votes while Egypt got no vote. When the final whistle was blown in favor of South Africa by FIFA President Sepp Blatter, millions of South African and Africans exploded in celebration. It was really a joyous moment.”
Buttressing the fact that South Africa has been tested and trusted, the ambassador listed the international events South Africa has hosted successfully. The envoy said that a detailed safety and security plan has been put into place. “All the security concerns have been addressed in the Bid Book. We are ready. South Africa has successfully hosted more than 150 international events since 1994. The government has established mechanisms for joint command, control and communication systems to ensure adequate security during the event. There are trained and equipped security operatives to combat any security risk”, he added.
World Cup fever and legacy
On the impact of the World Cup, Suliman said that the event will contribute effectively to the awakening of Africa’s potential as a prosperous, united and global colossus. On the benefits the event will bring the country, he said that geographical proximity will play a greater role. “The legacy will not be confined to the host country. The countries bordering South Africa will also benefit greatly from the event. This is not only a South African affair; it is an African affair,” Ambassador Suliman emphasized. “South Africa is committed to ensuring that the World Cup is an unprecedented success as it will leave a lasting social legacy for all.”
Meanwhile, reports state that campsites and budget-price game lodges in Zimbabwe are already receiving bookings for the world’s biggest sporting event. Other South African neighbors - Botswana with its game parks, Mozambique with its beaches and the monarchy of Swaziland - are already reaping the benefits, with many World Cup tourists wanting to see a bit more of the continent during their visit.
The ambassador said that the South African Embassy is working hard to ease the requirements for visa applicants, explaining that his government has introduced an ‘Event Visa’ in a bid to encourage football lovers and tourists. “Special event needs special attention. If you go for one match, you will get a visa for one match” he said. Ambassador Suliman said that for him the ‘cherry on top of the cake’ is “for us [Africans] to win the cup,” concluding, “I think we have the best teams and we have to translate their efforts into success.”