The long-awaited first World Cup of soccer on African soil kicked off on Friday at Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium with a colourful opening ceremony and thrilling match between South Africa and Mexico, which drew 1-1, as VOA Studio 7 correspondent Benedict Nhlapho reported from the packed sports complex.
The United States was represented in the opening ceremonies by Vice President Joe Biden, who said it was fitting South Africa should host the event given its international leadership, VOA correspondent Scott Bobb reported.
Thursday evening at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, South African President Jacob Zuma briefly appeared with FIFA chief Sepp Blatter. The crowd went wild when Mr. Zuma expressed the country’s joy at hosting the World Cup.
Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu reminded the crowd that thanks were due to former president and fellow Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela for ensuring that the tournament would be held in South Africa.
But the excitement generated by the concert was dampened Friday as South Africans learned that Mandela’s great-granddaughter had died in a motor vehicle accident on the way home from the concert.
The Nelson Mandela foundation said Zenani Mandela died in a single-car accident on a Johannesburg highway. Police charged the driver with operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Authorities said police were considering bringing culpable homicide charges as well.
The concert also pushed a World Cup-related initiative called 1-Goal Education. FIFA and South Africa hope it will ensure basic education for up to 72 million african children. Video clips stressed the importance of school.
Zimbabwean soccer fans greeted the opening of the World Cup next door with jubilation. It was a half day for most workers and fans thronged sports bars or went home to watch the first game.
Harare soccer-lover Anderson Makombe told VOA Studio 7 reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye the World Cup in South Africa gives the continent a chance to showcase itself. Former Warriors player Alois Bunjira, on the scene in Johannesburg, said he was happy all eyes are on the first World Cup in Africa. Monomotapa Football Club Secretary David Makombe said local league players are closely watching technique in matches.