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FIFA Praises World Cup Host South Africa

Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer eyes the ball shot by England player Frank Lampard before goal was disallowed during 2010 World Cup round of 16 soccer match, 27 Jun 2010
Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer eyes the ball shot by England player Frank Lampard before goal was disallowed during 2010 World Cup round of 16 soccer match, 27 Jun 2010

Senior officials of football's governing body have praised South Africa for the just concluded World Cup.  South African officials are also expressing satisfaction, saying they hope to use the event to foster unity and social development.  

The president of the international football federation, Sepp Blatter, Monday complimented the South African government for meeting its obligations and the South African people for their warm hospitality during the World Cup.

"I would also like to give a compliment to Africa as a continent because Africa has proven that really they can organize this World Cup," he said.  "They can organize a big competition.  And as I said at the very beginning, it is a question of trust and confidence."

The month-long tournament ended Sunday night with Spain's national team hoisting the coveted trophy after defeating the Netherlands, 1-0.

Football's world governing body, or FIFA, said the 64 matches drew more than three million fans, the third largest turnout after the United States in 1994 and Germany four years ago.

More than six million people visited fan parks during the matches, and an estimated 750 million television viewers around the world watched the final.

Critics had feared that South Africa's high crime rate and lack of public transportation would mar the event, but it went off without any major problems.

FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valke praised the security forces for their work.

"They have done even more than what people were expecting," he said. "I mean there was not a single incident, nothing which put at risk the World Cup during all 32 days."

The most serious incident occurred when some 600 fans were unable to attend the quarter-final match in Durban because of bad weather and congestion at its new airport.

Several dozen cases of petty crime were reported, including several robberies of visiting football teams and journalists.  These were dealt with by special courts which handed out severe penalties to the guilty.

No cases of murder, rape or hooliganism were reported.

Asked about the bomb attack in Uganda that killed more than 70 people who were watching the World Cup final, Blatter said it could not be directly linked to the event but should be condemned regardless of its motive.

South African President Jacob Zuma went on national television to congratulate the nation.

"We did it.  It is an emotional moment for this 16-year-old nation which has only recently emerged from the horrors of apartheid," he said. "We have been able to show the world that we have what it takes to compete with the best, united in our diversity."

He noted that the government had worked with the private sector in organizing the World Cup and said the experience would help efforts to boost employment, education and health services.

"We are sad that it is ending, but we are smiling because it went so well," he said.  "Yesterday was the final, but it was definitely not the end.  It was the beginning of a better future for South Africa and Africa."

He praised the spirit of the foreign fans, saying the Cup was the start of a lifelong friendship and invited them all to return.

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