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THE natural modesty of Africans is hampering the ability of South Africa to project itself as a country capable of staging an outstanding World Cup next year, according to Local Organising Committee boss Irvin Khoza.
Khoza this week said that doubts expressed in Europe and elsewhere about the hosting of the 32-nation finals had not yet been countered effectively.
"We are too modest," he said. "We have a weakness as Africans. It's our nature to show respect and modesty - and that can be self-defeating at times.
"We are the opposite of Americans. We don't celebrate in advance. We don't show off."
Khoza has no doubts about his country's ability to stage the tournament, the world's biggest sports event, alongside the Summer Olympics.
He points out that South Africa successfully organised other major events such as the rugby and cricket World Cups while acknowledging that the soccer tournament is a much bigger and more high-profile affair.
"We have the organisation and the ability to host events of this magnitude," he said. "This is a great opportunity for us.
"What's important now is that we inspire the country and our youth.
"We must talk more about our achievements. We need to influence the new generation. We have to show that we've got what it takes."
Khoza said the World Cup would give South Africa the perfect springboard to bring new business and investment into the country.
"The chairmen of big corporations, business leaders and influential people of all kinds will come here for the World Cup," he added.
"We need to show them this is a good place to do business. That starts with the welcome at the airport. We must show them this is a different kind of tournament. We need to create a home from home [environment] for them.
"Many people will be coming here for the first time, people who supported us during our struggles. We must not disappoint them."
The 60-year-old Khoza, himself a successful businessman, said security was a challenge but he believed South Africa could rise to the twin challenge of protecting visiting teams and supporters from the country's high crime rate while preventing hooliganism by overseas fans.
He said South African security officials had been in Germany for the last World Cup finals and had learnt much there.
"We won't use strong-arm tactics," he said. "People are coming here for a carnival atmosphere and we will encourage that."
He said there would be contacts with police in the countries of teams taking part in the tournament with a view to identifying known trouble-makers and preventing them from travelling.
Khoza said the World Cup would also leave South Africa with a legacy of first-class soccer stadiums which would enable the country to host other major tournaments in the future.
He said he hoped visiting fans would leave with a great image of South African people.
"Our slogan is 'celebrating Africa's humanity'," he said. "Visitors will experience the warmth of the people and many spontaneous greetings.
"People here like to laugh. It's an expression of happiness. When they go to a match, it's like going to a wedding. It's a celebration."
But he said for Africa's World Cup to be perfect, African teams needed to perform well and he hoped to see South Africa or another African team reach the quarter-finals or even the semi-finals. - Reuters