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S. Africans Jubilant Over News Country Will Host 2010 World Cup - 2004-05-15


There is jubilation in South Africa, after the country won the right to host the 2010 football World Cup.

Four years ago, South Africans gathered downtown expecting to hear they had been chosen to host the 2006 World Cup, and they went away disappointed. So the air was thick with anticipation and anxiety, as thousands of people watched FIFA President Sepp Blatter open his envelope and slide out a card that read South Africa.

"The 2010 FIFA World Cup will be organized? "

The entire crowd jumped up and down in unison, screaming and raising their fists in victory. Many people cried with joy. They started dancing and singing. And they did not stop for hours.

The jubilation was infectious. Even foreign reporters found themselves caught up in the celebration, with total strangers giving them big bear hugs.

Some teenagers grabbed a VOA microphone, determined to share their excitement.

"I love South Africa! Me too! We did it at last, South Africa deserves this! South Africa, we love you! We've got it!"

Having experienced disappointment themselves, some people spared a thought for Morocco, which bid for the World Cup and lost. A man named Johannes Matega said his sympathy for Morocco is still outweighed by happiness.

"I'm happy, I'm happy, I've got no words to say," he said. "It's just; justice has been done. We've all been waiting. Sorry for Morocco; they've been bidding for all these years. But, unfortunately, the best country had to win. It's just unfortunate for them; I feel for them. But we also want it, don't we?"

South Africans have not been so jubilant since the end of apartheid 10 years ago. The crowd celebrating in downtown Johannesburg was racially mixed and united in joy. In a country with such a divided history, that was not lost on a woman named Minki Nthodi.

"I'm so happy, I don't know what to do," she said. "I just thank God for bringing that bid here. At least it will show that we are united; we are one thing. We are not divided. We are all one. It's so nice to be South African! Thank you!"

Several spontaneous celebrations broke out after the announcement, when people spilled out of their apartment buildings, and into the streets of the city. At every intersection, drivers honked their car horns and waved.

Everyone here seems confident that South Africa will host a successful tournament. Many expressed their hope that hosting the event will bring economic growth and jobs to a country where the unemployment rate hovers around 40 percent.

But the World Cup is still six years away, and there is a lot of work to be done before then. For now, South Africans are too busy celebrating to worry.

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