After 32 teams from around the world played a total of 64 games and scored over 120 goals the first African hosted World cup is over.
In the final against Holland, Andres Iniesta scored the winning goal for Spain, and in doing so he kept alive the dream that teams can win the greatest footballing prize by playing the, ‘beautiful game’, beautifully. But perhaps the real winner in this football fest was South Africa and the continent of Africa.
The perennial naysayers argued that the Africa was not ready for such a sporting prize: ‘the stadiums would not be ready’, ‘the pitches not up to European levels’, ‘the transport infrastructure insufficient’, and of course ‘crime’, they said, ‘would be out of control’.
None of the above came to pass. Instead we were treated to a carnival of colour, hospitality and a beautifully organised and choreographed World Cup that would be the envy of the richest nations in the world. Even the much talked about Vuvuzela gave a distinctiveness that will come to symbolise South Africa’s tournament.
For me magic and memorable moments abound, not least the competition’s first goal, spectacularly scored by South Africa’s Siphiwe Tshabalala, and that heart wrenching moment when the brilliant Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan missed a penalty in the last minute of extra time during the quarter final clash with Uruguay. During a pulsating competition the Brazilians dazzled but ultimately underperformed, and with England, well, the less that’s said the better.
In the end the Spanish rightly won the greatest prize, but it was South Africa and the wider continent of Africa that really triumphed.
By Simon Woolley