Johannesburg – Memories of the 2010 World Cup will be rekindled when the tournament trophy arrives in South Africa on Saturday, and Safa president Danny Jordaan expects to take a trip down memory lane when he catches a glimpse of the iconic silverware.
The coveted trophy touches down at Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg on Saturday, courtesy of Coca-Cola. Thousands of fans will be given a unique opportunity to be close to football’s biggest prize, ahead of the Fifa World Cup in Qatar later this year.
The Safa president said the sight of the trophy should trigger a bout of nostalgia and take him back to a time when statesman Nelson Mandela was still alive.
“The arrival of the World Cup trophy in Johannesburg, South Africa, [on Saturday] will rekindle the memories and the emotions that went [through] all of us when the World Cup arrived in our country for Africa’s first World Cup in 2010,” he said.
“We had agreed that the first stop for the World Cup trophy in South Africa must be with Nelson Mandela. On arrival in South Africa, we took the trophy to Nelson Mandela and, of course, he shared his own emotion that when he was in prison they could only listen [to football] on the radio and it was a life of an uncertain future because Apartheid had sentenced him to 27 years in prison.
“And when the trophy was placed in front of him, he reminded us of the decision in Zurich [on 15 May 2004], where the [rights to host the] World Cup was awarded to South Africa. There he said: ‘I feel like a 15-year-old boy.’ And those emotions were again displayed when he placed his hands on the trophy.
“He called me to put my hand on the trophy too. Of course, I knew that we were not allowed to touch the trophy because it was the original. You could not touch it with your hand and had to put on gloves. But Mandela said: ‘put your hand on the trophy Danny, come put your hand.’
“I looked at the Fifa bosses who were present, but Mandela insisted. So, I put my hand on the trophy and of course, they said nothing. That memory has stayed with me because Fifa insists that it is only countries that win the World Cup and heads of state who are allowed to touch the trophy. Madiba was not the head of state, and nor had we won the World Cup at the time. But no one can dispute the fact that the trophy was in front of Mandela because of his tremendous effort and contribution. So, we violated Fifa protocol.”
Jordaan recalled that even after South Africa won the rights to host the World Cup, there were still suggestions from some cynical foreign journalists who suggested that there was a so-called ‘Plan B’ in place that would kick into place in case the country’s plans crashed and burned. This plan would also supposedly see the tournament moved to Australia, among other alternatives, at short notice if the stadiums and other related projects were not built on time.
“The arrival of the trophy put an end to all the speculation. The trophy’s arrival was the death of doubt and then the discussions were finally about the World Cup starting,” he continued.
“The conversations moved to ‘where can we get tickets? When will the tickets go on sale? When are we getting the fixtures? Which countries will play in which host city’.
“The conversation shifted to a reality that South Africa, the first African country to host the World Cup, established [its credentials as a host nation] through the arrival of the World Cup trophy in our country. Since then [the trophy tour] has become a symbol of the beginning of the biggest football showpiece when the World Cup trophy comes to a country.
“The fact is South Africa has always been singled out as one of the countries out of 211 to have the trophy arrive in our country, celebrating the biggest football showpiece. You will also remember that the World Cup in Qatar will be the first in the Middle East and they were present in 2010, working with us.”
Jordaan said he hoped that an African nation would make a mark in the World Cup and reach the final of the showpiece in Qatar later this year.
“We hope this time that an African team will go to the final stages, if not the final of the World Cup in Qatar. We had hoped this would become a reality in South Africa in 2010 and I think we were well on our way when Ghana reached the quarterfinals. But then the Luis Suarez incident brought an abrupt end to Africa’s hopes to see an African team [reach the final] in Africa’s first World Cup after 100 years.”
Ghana were on the brink of becoming the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, but Uruguay’s Suarez deliberately handled the ball when it seemed to be heading into the back of the net.
He was sent off and Ghana earned a penalty. But Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan struck the crossbar from the spot and Uruguay eventually won the match 4-2 after a tense penalty-kick shootout.