The month-long football World Cup – starts in South Africa on today. It’ll be a first for Africa, a continent the Olympics have feared to tread. Ahead of the opening ceremony, fireworks lit up the sky over Soweto in Johannesburg as 30,000 people watched local and international superstars in a concert. In all, 32 teams will participate in this year’s World Cup with total of 64 games to be played. The final will take place on July 11 at the Soccer City stadium.
Shakira, who recently visited a school in South Arrica to interact with the students, thinks that a grand-scale event like FIFA World Cup can bring attention to issues like education in the world.
And with close to half a million visitors expected for the games, this will be the biggest, noisiest and most colourful party South Africa’s ever hosted. For the next four weeks, South Africa will hope the world talks about Messi, Kaka and Ronaldo rather than crime, unemployment and AIDS.
South Africa has invested 33 billion rand (about Rs. 20,000 crore) in World Cup-related infrastructure, according to the local media.
Crowds queued up for hours to enter the Grand Parade in the heart of the city, where matches will be shown live and musical acts will entertain South Africans and tourists alike.
The opening match between hosts South Africa and Mexico which will take place at 7.30 pm Indian time.
The World Cup kicks off with a 40-minute opening ceremony at Soccer City. American R’n’B star R Kelly is one of 1,581 performers who will perform in the opening ceremony.
Defending champions Italy start on Monday with a match against Paraguay, Brazil face North Korea in their first game on Tuesday and Euro 2008 winners Spain start their bid for a first World Cup win by taking on Switzerland on Wednesday.
England duo Rio Ferdinand and David Beckham, Germany skipper Michael Ballack, Ghana midfielder Michael Essien and Portugal winger Nani will be missed in this world cup.