The Year of African Football

31 January 2007

With South Africa gearing up to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup, and the continent seeking to boost development and integration through sport, the African Union (AU) has launched 2007 as the International Year of African Football.

The colourful launch ceremony, which took place during the 8th African Union heads of state summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Tuesday, also marked the 50th anniversary of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

Promoting African integration
Speaking during the launch, which was also witnessed by Fifa president Sepp Blatter and African soccer greats Kalusha Bwalya and Abed Pele, CAF President Isaa Hayatou said football had a significant role to play in the achievement of Africa's developmental objectives.

The initiative seeks to spur football-related events in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup, as well as to promote African commitment to the integration of the continent.

Hayatou added that football, and sport in general, had the potential to foster peace and development and contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding on the continent.

Sharing the benefits of 2010
Also speaking during the launch, South African President Thabo Mbeki said that preparations were going well for the hosting of soccer's greatest showpiece, and that SA was gearing to stage a World Cup that would make Africa proud.

Mbeki called on African countries to work with South Africa to ensure that the benefits of hosting the tournament were shared as widely as possible.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter echoed Mbeki comments, saying that Africa, particularly the southern part of the continent, should take advantage of the World Cup in order to benefit from the over-spills of the massive event.

Blatter said South Africa's neighbouring countries should kick-start their 2010 legacy projects by improving their infrastructure and offering to provide training grounds for the teams set to take part in the soccer spectacular

An end to all the patronizing
Blatter also reiterated his long-standing position that South Africa was capable of delivering a successful World Cup - and once more gave the assurance that there was no alternative venue being held in reserve to replace South Africa as the host of the games.

The event, he said, would show the international community what Africa was capable of, and give the lie to the patronizing views about the continent held by many in the international community.

The 2010 World Cup, he said, would "send a message to the world that the football family trusts Africa."

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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Nelson Mandela holds the Fifa World Cup aloft seconds after South Africa was announced as the host nation for the 2010 Football World Cup (Photo: Fifa.com)
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