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FIFA World Cup 2010

11. June 2009

Zuma kicks off 2010 countdown

Vuvuzelas brayed and construction workers cheered as President Jacob Zuma kicked off the 365-day countdown to the 2010 World Cup in Cape Town on Thursday. "We have made it," he said, before booting a Fifa-approved soccer ball off a stand at a ceremony in the three-quarters-complete R4.45 billion Greenpoint stadium.

The tournament gets under way on June 11 next year at Soccer City in Johannesburg.

"One thing is certain," Zuma told his audience, which included Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and Western Cape premier Helen Zille, "we have proved to the world that South Africans are special people. When we have challenges we always rise to the occasion.

"I think we have proved to the world that we are a country that must be counted on."

He paid particular tribute to the stadium's construction workers, who were given the afternoon off to attend the ceremony, saying they had made history.

"When all the planners and everybody have done their paperwork, you put your strength, your sweat in an amazing fashion," he said.

"You have done us good, made us proud." The VIP stand was set on bare sand on what will become the playing surface of the stadium when a carpet of grass, being grown in Stellenbosch, is transplanted.

Zuma, wearing a red plastic hard hat shaped like a half-soccer ball, joked that he had heard that the trumpet-like vuvuzela was known in the Western Cape as a vuvuzille - a reference to the premier.

He also promised that national soccer team Bafana Bafana would "surprise the world", and said he would referee the final match of the tournament if that was what was needed to ensure that the cup stayed in South Africa.

Zuma was presented with a pair of gold-coloured soccer boots as a gift from the City of Cape Town.

The presentation was made by the stadium's only female crane operator Zoliswa Gila, who had wanted to be a pilot but decided that sitting in a crane cab 80m above ground was the next best thing.

Earlier, Fifa local organising committee chief executive Danny Jordaan said "everything" was ready for the World Cup to begin.

"We've travelled the journey for 15 years, with one year to go... so it's a very, very special day," he said.

He said the world had forgotten about plan B - a supposed Fifa fallback arrangement to take the competition to another country if South Africa was unable to get ready for the event.

Addressing Fifa secretary-general Jerome Falcke, Jordaan said: "I think if you  have a plan B, keep it for 2014 or 2018, or 2022."

Falcke said Fifa would now move to a back seat as South Africa took ownership of the World Cup.

"We have done what we have to do, and now it's your World Cup," he said.

"Enjoy the next 12 months, enjoy the World Cup."

Sources: Sapa & South Africa Good News

Image: N Engelbrecht Having a ball: President Jacob Zuma and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille visit the Greenpoint stadium in Cape Town with 365 days to kick-off of the 2010 Fifa World Cup


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