COUNTDOWN TO THE BIG KICKOFF
FIFA president Sepp Blatter says South Africa is ready to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
Speaking at Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium yesterday to mark the 100 days countdown to kickoff, Blatter squashed any doubts about the country's readiness to host the soccer extravaganza.
Blatter likened hosting the World Cup on African soil to a love story that ends perfectly. He said it took a lot of convincing for Fifa to accept that Africa "have so much to offer".
"It's like a love story between the technical directorate of Fifa and the African continent. It's a long way paved with trust, confidence and patience as well.
"But I am happy that Africa's patience has finally paid dividends. The dream came true and today it is no longer a dream, but a reality. It's no longer a question of if but a matter of when," he said.
Blatter said though they had to apply pressure at times, they never questioned SA's ability to host the soccer showpiece. Fifa has been harassed by people wanting to know whether SA will be ready, but Blatter said all they needed was to trust and have confidence in the country.
He said after their five-day stadium inspection of the 10 stadiums, Fifa was happy about the progress.
"If you ask me whether I sleep at night, I would say that I sleep a peaceful sleep because my conscience is clear," he said.
Blatter said Africa, and particularly South Africa, was patient after losing out by one vote to Germany to host the 2006 finals.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said the 100 days celebration meant that the country was more than ready. But, he said there was still some work to be done.
"What is left is for us to focus on soft issues such as ensuring that spectators who will land on our shores are warmly welcomed and treated in an African friendly way. Lets make them feel at home," Motlanthe said.
"The cup will remain here at home. One of Africa's six-pack will win it. This is a lifetime chance for the continent to take the cup," he said.
After touring the Moses Mabhida Stadium with Blatter, Local Organising Committee chairperson Irvin Khoza and KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize, Motlanthe assured visitors that they would not be ripped off by airlines.
His comment followed concerns that some airline companies were inflating prices in a "get rich quick" scheme.
The Competition Commission has announced that it is investigating collusion among South African airlines on World Cup prices and pricing strategies.