Africa is the greatest stage

18 January 2013

As the stadium clock slowly ticks towards 90 minutes, every face in the crowd and millions watching on television anxiously await the fourth official raising his timekeeping board to indicate how much injury time will be awarded.

Africa’s two best teams are deadlocked in battle, neither side having landed the killer punch in over 89 minutes of gruelling football.  The clock strikes 90… the board goes up; five extra minutes will be played.  Five minutes to snatch the glory and for one player to possibly immortalise his name in the annals of history.

Ignoring their pain, the 22 players on the pitch push themselves one last time before the final whistle blows.  The clock steadily ticks on, one minute passes, then a second and a third. With two minutes on the clock; neither team seems destined to win it in normal time, and the spectre of 30 minutes of extra time looms large.

Suddenly there is a break down the left as the winger skilfully beats his opponent and runs down the line.  Willing his legs to carry him he pushes forward to the edge of the opposition’s goal and spies his striker calling out for the ball.  He strikes the ball; it rises high into the night sky zooming towards the head of his striker.  A collective hush descends on the stadium; the striker makes contact sending the ball into the top corner of the net.

Pandemonium erupts; a game that seemed destined for extra time has been won in the most dramatic of circumstances as the clock strikes 95 minutes played.  How great would it be, if this ultimate descend on our Bafana Bafana!!

This is the dream of every player and the fans of all the 16 countries who will take part in the Orange Africa Cup of Nations 2013. While victory is ultimately what drives every team, it is down to the host to prepare the battle fields.

 

This honour has fallen to South Africa who will host the 29th Africa Cup of Nations from 19 January to 10 February 2013.   Africa’s top 16 teams will be divided into four groups of four, including host South Africa which has been drawn in Group A.  

Group A: South Africa, Cape Verde, Morocco and Angola.
Group B: Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and Mali.
Group C: Zambia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Nigeria.
Group D: Ivory Coast, Algeria, Tunisia and Togo.

The cream of Africa’s footballing talent will compete at five of the stadiums which hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, with the opening match and final being played at the iconic Soccer City in Soweto. It has been renamed the National Stadium for the duration of the tournament.  South Africa has signed a number of guarantees with Confederation of African Football (CAF) to ensure the Orange Africa Cup of Nations 2013 takes place.

Apart from the stadiums, the second most crucial aspect to any major international tournament is the security of participants and fans alike.  After months of planning, Government is ready to implement effective plans to ensure a safe and secure Orange Africa Cup of Nations 2013.

The Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu told reporters at a briefing in November 2012 that South Africa is ready to provide all the participating teams security throughout the duration of the games. Security at all ports of entry during this period will be strengthened.

All the teams will be escorted from the airport to their respective hotels; teams will also be escorted from their hotels to their training venues 24/7 to make sure that they are safe.

On match days the police will be deployed en masse to control crowds inside and outside the stadia. The law enforcement agencies will ensure fans enjoy watching the sport that is so loved by South Africans.  South Africa assisted by other security enforcement agencies in the region and the Interpol will be working closely managing the movement of people and the cargo that will be coming through our borders.
The immigrations officials in all ports of entry will be ready to handle the expected influx of both people and goods.  Dedicated lanes will be created at South Africa's ports of entry to facilitate the swift movement of soccer fans and officials who will be converging in the country.

With stadiums, security and travel arrangements in place, all that remains is for visitors to come to our shores to enjoy world class hospitality at our hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfast venues.

South Africans will be ready to display their hospitality.  South Africans have a wonderful repertoire which they displayed during the 2010 World Cup.  They opened their doors to welcome our visitors. Staff in hotels and lodges made the stay of the visitors a memorable one.  South African flag was seen in a number of cars on the road supporting our Bafana Bafana.  Stadiums were full to capacity by fans supporting all the teams that were playing. The spirit of camaraderie displayed by the fans – irrespective of their country of origin - in stadiums created an exciting atmosphere.

At the final draw of the 29th Africa Cup of Nations on 25 October 2012 in Durban, President Jacob Zuma said that Government and the people of South Africa are fully prepared and ready to host a successful Orange Africa Cup of Nations 2013 tournament.

He stated that Government fully supports the South African Football Association and the Local Organising Committee. All the necessary guarantees to stage this sporting event have been met.

Africa’s greatest stage stands ready to welcome all 16 participating teams to our field of dreams.  We also stand ready to welcome fans from all over the continent and the rest of the world to our beautiful country.  Together let’s make the Orange Africa Cup of Nations 2013 a celebration of sporting excellence, of friendship and humanity.

We call on all South Africans to go out in their numbers to buy the tickets and fill up the stadiums as we did in 2010.  All the municipalities that will be hosting the games stand ready to implement all the guarantees signed by the Government.   Let everybody work with the law enforcement agents to ensure our visitors are accorded the safe environment and enjoy their stay in South Africa.  Importantly, let us go out in our numbers to support Bafana Bafana!

Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS)