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Football

South Africa gets 2010 World Cup


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ZURICH, Switzerland -- World football governing body FIFA has awarded the 2010 World Cup to South Africa -- the first time the tournament has gone to an African nation.

South Africa, which narrowly lost out to Germany in the race to host the 2006 World Cup, was chosen ahead of a trio of north African bids from Morocco, Egypt and Libya.

"The 2010 World Cup will be organized by South Africa," FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced.

"We can all applaud Africa. The victor is football. The victor is Africa."

Blatter said only one round of voting of FIFA's 24-man executive committee had been required.

South Africa's delegation erupted in noisy celebrations on hearing the announcement.

Former president Nelson Mandela, who had made an emotive case for South Africa's bid on Friday, climbed on to the stage and joyfully lifted the World Cup trophy.

"I feel like a young man of 50," said the 85-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner.

"And the beauty of this victory is that we were dealing with highly capable competitors which made it difficult for us to forecast what the result was going to be.

"I thank everyone who has supported us and I would like to say to those who were not as lucky that they must not be disillusioned.

"The fact that you have not succeeded today is no reflection on those who did not succeed today. Another time when you compete you will be more lucky than we are.

"My message is that South Africa should accept the result of this vote with humility because we are all equal."

Breaking down barriers

On Friday Mandela had described the role football had played in breaking down racial barriers in the former apartheid state and said the sport had provided his only release during his 27-year imprisonment for opposing the regime

The South African delegation also included two other Nobel Peace Prize winners -- F.W. de Klerk, the last apartheid-era president, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu -- and Liberian former world footballer of the year George Weah.

"This is for Africa. This is for African renewal," said South African bid chief Irvin Khoza.

"We've come this far not because of our efforts. The efforts of others who supported us have brought us this far."

Turning to Mandela, Tutu and de Klerk he added: "Your collective wisdom and support was not lost on FIFA."

South African president Thabo Mbeki said the prospect of the World Cup offered Africa a journey of hope, away from decades of conflict, division, poverty and war.

"Soccer's World Cup in Africa will reaffirm our common humanity and prove we all belong to one family," said Mbeki.

"Help us to fully restore Africa's dignity as together we undertake a journey of hope crowned by the 2010 World Cup."

FIFA ruled that the 2010 World Cup would go to Africa after South Africa missed out on the 2006 tournament by just one vote.

South Africa has previously hosted the Rugby World Cup, in 1995, and last year's Cricket World Cup.


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