CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP)—Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu said South Africans should take a moment to congratulate themselves on being the first nation on the continent to host the World Cup—and then turn to building on the good will and good publicity the tournament has generated.
At a news conference in Cape Town June 21, Tutu said international broadcasts from the the main event of the world’s most popular sport, have cast the nation in a good light and will boost its tourism industry.
Almost from the moment in 2004 it won the bid to host the World Cup, South Africa has faced questions whether a nation with high crime and poverty rates could host such an event.
When the tournament started June 11, South Africans showed they “were not only ready to host the World Cup, as far as infrastructure was concerned, but also in terms of our self-belief and self-esteem as a nation,” Tutu said June 21. “We are hosting the greatest World Cup in history, and we are doing it in style.”
He also noted how the World Cup has boosted a sense of unity in a country still haunted by the racial and economic divisions created by apartheid. And that unity remains even though the national squad, which qualified automatically as host, is unlikely to make it past the first round.
“As South Africans, we need to pat ourselves on the back for having achieved something very special in terms of developing fantastic infrastructure, ensuring that it works, and uniting our people,” Tutu said.
Now, Tutu said, the nation must consider how to “make the World Cup not an end, but a new beginning.”
The legacy could include new energy and commitment to building homes, sports fields, schools and clinics for the country’s impoverished majority.
“I have had the good fortune of meeting some of our political leaders on the sidelines of the World Cup over the past 10 days, and I know they are seized with the question of not only sustaining the goodwill and patriotism, but also creating a meaningful World Cup legacy,” he said. “This is not just a government matter. It is a matter for all South Africans and it is also a matter that should interest and include FIFA.”
Tutu also had some words of comfort for the national team, which could become the first host nation to fail to advance in a World Cup.
He was nonetheless optimistic.
“There is no option but for us to play the games of our lives tomorrow against France,” he said. “I’m predicting a three or four-nil victory. Let’s get behind Bafana tomorrow. Win or lose, in many respects we have already won the World Cup.”