Professional soccer, or football as it’s known worldwide, may not be very popular in the U.S. but there’s no denying the sport’s international acclaim. That’s why excitement is building around the globe as the 19th World Cup, scheduled to begin June 11 in South Africa, quickly approaches.

But organizers in South Africa said they hope the event will be more than just an exciting sports tournament. The 2010 World Cup will mark the first time the event has been held on the African continent, and organizers said it will give their nation a chance to showcase its progress on the international stage.

Fans have already begun arriving at the World Cup’s site in Johannesburg, South Africa, and according to reports, many tourists have visited Vilakazi Street, one of the most famous roads in the Soweto region of Johannesburg. According to FIFA.com, Vilakazi is the only street in the world that is to home two Nobel Prize winners, anti-apartheid activists Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. Tutu still owns his home on the famous street and visits from time to time, while Mandela’s former home has been converted into the Nelson Mandela House Museum, one of the more attractive sites for tourists.

“Vilakazi Street is an iconic landmark and tourist attraction. There is no other street in the world like it,” Lindiwe Mahlangu, CEO of the Johannesburg Tourism Company, told FIFA.com “Soweto is an important part of our country’s heritage. It was here that the Freedom Charter was drafted in 1955, an important document used in the creation of the Constitution of South Africa.”

The 2010 FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee South Africa believes this great sporting event will be just as important to creating a better South Africa. That’s why they have worked hard over the last year to meet the requirements set by FIFA to host the World Cup. To them, it’s much more than just a game.

“Reconciliation and nation building is also an important aim of this World Cup. We want to make this country better and more united and I think we will achieve that,” Dr. Danny Jordaan, CEO of the committee, told FIFA.com.

“We always anticipated the day Nelson Mandela would walk out of prison. We always anticipated the day we would vote the first time. And now we anticipate the start of the FIFA World Cup in our country,” Jordaan continued. “When these things happen the joy is almost overwhelming. The tournament’s kickoff will be a huge day for so many South Africans. It will be a moment to cherish but, also, a moment to remember our past.”

 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor