World Cup 2010: New Horizons for African Football
By: Peter Beckham
Early reports show that even at this early stage, South Africans are more than eager to formally welcome and host the FIFA World Cup 2010. After losing the 2006 bid to Germany, the date of May 15, 2004 marked history when it was announced that it is time for South Africa to be the first ever African country to hold the much revered World Cup series and to be the 16th country to do such.
There will be two main stadiums in Johannesburg to be used for the event. Built in 1987, Soccer City is the venue for the first game. The stadium has a capacity of 94,700 people and is large and majestic enough to act as the springboard for the exciting tournament. Currently, renovations are under way to make sure the stadium is at the best it can be by 2010. Being constructed is an encircling roof while being developed are new changing room facilities and floodlights. The upper tier will also be extended around the stadium.
Another main stadium to be used for the 2010 World Cup is Ellis Park, just a few minutes away from Johannesburg City Center. Built in 1982, Ellis Park is a world class, integrated stadium that offers only state of the art features, facilities and security. The stadium is also being improved to be ready by 2010. Among the current developments under way is the construction of new upper tiers to increase the capacity of 10,149 seats to 60,000.
It must be said that the entrustment of the FIFA World Cup 2010 to South Africa couldn’t have had a more perfect timing, happening in a period where African football is steadily rising in both quantity and quality, especially considering its difficult beginnings. In the early days, football in South Africa has been affected by a harsh system of racial segregation. South Africa’s constitution prohibited racially mixed teams to compete in global tournaments and could only send either all-black or all-white teams.
Meanwhile, the history of football in Africa as a whole has been a deep story that doesn’t involve games alone but a lot of magic, racism, money, and complexity. Football games were not just mere games but also reflected such uneven poverty in Africa through money in the form of income to players. Everything was highly monetized and the system was frowned at by European countries. Nevertheless, the complex system of African football continued to push on and the overall style was often characterized by a showy, individualistic kind of game instead of a team effort.
The recent years showed much evolution in African football, along with the rise and global recognition of African football players like Steven Pienaar and Aaron Mokoena. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Pienaar is a South African midfielder of the Bafana Bafana (South African Soccer Team) who moved to Germany and the Borussia Dortmund team in 2006. Meanwhile, Mokoena is the captain of Bafana Bafana and was the youngest player ever to play for the team.
One thing’s for sure: regardless of the outcome, the FIFA World Cup 2010 would truly mark another history for the long evolution of football in Africa.
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