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Friday, June 11, 2010

Africa's greatest sporting moment has arrived

Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah, senior sports journalist
Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah, senior sports journalist

President Mills of Ghana will join other world leaders including America's President Barack Obama to share the magic of Nelson Mandela on Friday when he electrifies an already charged-up South Africa at Soccer City Stadium.

The family of the iconic Madiba have confirmed that he will make a rare public appearance at the spectacular opening ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals. Soccer City is the most famous stadium as it is where Mandela delivered his famous speech after being released from imprisonment in 1990.

As witnessed 48 hours earlier, tens of thousands of South Africans are expected to line the streets of the Sandton business district to hail Bafana Bafana (the Boys), draping themselves in flags and honking ear-splitting vuvuzela trumpets.

There will be similar scenes throughout the country where giant screens have already been erected ahead of the kick off.

On Wednesday, schoolchildren were dismissed at midday for a special month-long World Cup holiday, bringing many youngsters onto the sidewalk with their parents for the festivities. The noise from the plastic vuvuzela horns, set to become one of the main talking points of the tournament, drowned out all conversation - including attempts by television journalists to deliver two-way reports to their various studios.

The party got under way on Thursday evening with the opening ceremony concert for the World Cup. It was staged at the newly rebuilt Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg. Some of the headline performers at the concert were Shakira, John Legend, Angelique Kidjo, Alicia Keys and the Black Eyed Peas. The event lasted just over 3 hours.

Throughtout South Africa, the sense of belief has been heightened by the recent good form of Bafana Bafana, who enter this afternoon's opening match against Mexico on the back of a 13-match unbeaten run.

As the government urged fans to be on their best behaviour for the hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors, South Africans also delighted in the prospect that their hero, Nelson Mandela, would be among the crowds at Friday's opener.

The front-page of The Sowetan proclaimed the event would now be the "Mandela Show" while a headline in The Star read "Deafening Noise Can't Curb Kick-off Fever"

Ever since it became the first African nation to win the right to stage the tournament six years ago, South Africa has had to fend off claims that its high crime rate, lack of infrastructure and rudimentary public transport system rendered it an unsuitable choice.

Fears over crime were highlighted when armed robbers broke into a rural lodge where reporters covering Portugal are staying, holding one journalist at gunpoint before making off with cash, camera equipment and passports. Just before filing this story, there were fresh reports that two footballers in the Greece camp had also been robbed.

Meanwhile the opening game against Mexico promises to give the Bafana Bafana an early indication of how they will fare, and Parreira admits his side must ensure they do not buckle under pressure. "As much as the pressure is big, it's a world Cup game, it's sort of a war," said the Brazilian. "Opening games are always difficult, there is lots of pressure, the whole country is involved and you are playing under the eyes of the world.

Even before the real action starts, there is excitement that one can almost touch with one's fingers.

The e.tv Ghana crew shooting the SA 2010 Fans Diaries have been witnesses to some truly magical moments and spectacular sights and sounds in this beautiful country. For Ghanaian fans still contemplating making the six-hour trip to SA, I say come and experience Africa's greatest moment. SA 2010 will exude warmth to inspire all to feel proud of being African.
" Ke na Ko. Indeed it is time!

Courtesy Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah's ''SA 2010 Fans Diaries''

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