WC 2010

Once a global pariah because of apartheid, South Africa was chosen on May 15 to be the host of the world’s most popular sporting event, soccer’s World Cup, in 2010. The significance and poignancy of the inspired choice was written all over Nelson Mandela’s joyous face when the decision was announced by FIFA, soccer’s governing body. South Africa in 2000 lost a close vote for the 2006 tournament to Germany.

A lot more than the country’s superior infrastructure carried the day. As part of his pitch, Mandela saluted FIFA’s 1976 decision to expel South Africa for its odious racial policies, a move followed by other sports authorities. He also said soccer offered the “only joyful release” on Robben Island, where he was a political prisoner. The choice signals a new commitment to allow Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa to take turns as host of the Cup, which takes place every four years. This is a welcome move by a sport long dominated by Europeans and Latin Americans, who were so grudging in awarding the first tournament to Asia that they made two nations — Japan and South Korea — share the honours in 2002.

Soccer’s expanding popularity is one of globalisation’s potent manifestations. Africa is a rising soccer power known affectionately as “Bafana Bafana,” or “the boys.” The entire continent ought to enjoy the 2010 party. — The New York Times