Let the games begin

Today is the day all South Africans have been waiting for.

Today is the day all South Africans have been waiting for.

All our host cities and their stadiums are ready. Fan transport and fan parks are prepared and ready for the big day.

Bafana Bafana has been scoring goals and today the games begin. Bafana has had 12 consecutive wins.

More than 500million people in the world are going to bring their attention to South Africa and we will not disappoint.

Today Bafana Bafana takes on Mexico in the month-long tournament.

Local Organising Committee chief executive Danny Jordaan yesterday said today "is going to be an incredible day".

"South Africans are late believers but once they believe, they are fanatical believers. Of course our team has increased our ability to believe," he said.

He likened the run-up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup to the struggle against apartheid, joking that his next career move might be to the post office.

"Then the prison doors opened and he (Mandela) walked out ... and we thought, what are we going to do next? I think I will look for a smaller job now ... like a job in the post office. I think I've seen enough struggle."

Jordaan said during the country's key historic moments the rest of the world - and some South Africans - always seemed to expect the worst of South Africa.

"You see the headlines: "Race war', 'Bloodshed', 'Chaos', 'Plan B', 'Don't do it', 'It's not going to happen'," Jordaan said.

The recent successes of Bafana Bafana, whose tour on a party bus to Sandton in Johannesburg on Wednesday drew tens of thousands of fans on to the streets, played a big role in South Africa's new-found optimism.

"Of course our team has increased our ability to believe," said Jordaan, referring to the 12 consecutive wins.

To top the journey off, he said, he really would like to see Nelson Mandela at Soccer City during the opening this afternoon.

"Nelson Mandela is 92 years old ... he himself wants to be there. Whether he stays five minutes or the whole match is really not our decision.

"As things stand now, there is a very, very great chance that, in fact, he'll be there because he wants to be there. How long he will stay, that is really his decision. But we'll just be happy if he shows his face," Jordaan said.

He said that Mandela had been the symbol of unity for a democratic South Africa, whose citizens saw racial barriers being torn down in the run-up to the Cup, especially when the Blue Bulls rugby team trekked to Soweto for the Super 14 finals.

" Today was set to become a pivotal day in South Africa and Africa's history. It is a psychological barrier that has been crossed ... it's an assertion of who we are as Africans and what we can deliver."