Africa's long road to 2010
"The World Cup is coming to Africa - I can't believe it. It just
makes me believe that anything is possible."
The words of a female DJ as I listened to the radio in Lesotho just
10 days ago. An attitude which encapsulates the wonder many are feeling
across Africa - still incredulous that the planet's biggest sports event
is coming here.
To the only continent never to have hosted the Olympics nor the World
Cup. Until now that is.
For those living in South Africa itself, the incredulity goes even
deeper. Twenty years ago, hosting the World Cup was an impossible dream.
Still under the grip of apartheid, South Africa was a pariah state,
banned from football by Fifa, and the prospect of playing any match, let
alone hosting the world, was a mere flight of fancy.
But now we're a month away from a tournament which many, including
former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, fully expect to
change Africa's poor global standing - broadly known for such negative
images as war, famine, HIV/Aids corruption - while the more
football-minded simply hope a new playing generation will shine brightly
in 10-15 years' time, as those who grew up inspired by Africa's first
World Cup hit maturity. "I'm hoping an African side can do really well,
perhaps even win it," says former South Africa defender Mark Fish. "Then
we can ask Fifa why we can't have seven, eight, perhaps even nine teams
representing Africa in future World Cups."