Germany play Spain as South Africa looks toward final
Posted Wednesday July 7, 1010 – 8.36am
DURBAN (AFP) – Germany and Spain meet in the second semi-final on Wednesday in Durban, which is already casting a hopeful eye on the Olympics after a smooth World Cup in South Africa.
The teams play at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium where Germany demolished Australia 4-0 in the group stages.
Fans for both sides were gathering at the city’s hugely popular beachfront fan park, which has drawn 500,000 visitors since the World Cup’s June 11 kickoff and lies in sight of the dramatic arch that spans the stadium’s pitch.
“The atmosphere is wonderful and we anticipate a good match,” said Steffen Scholz, an official of the German “fan embassy”.
The fan embassy has followed the German team throughout its World Cup tour across South Africa, drumming up support for ‘der Mannschaft’ and giving consular support to fans.
South Africa is priding itself on overcoming worries about its high crime rate and its lack of public transport, which critics had contended made the country unsuitable to host the World Cup.
President Jacob Zuma has hailed the social impact of the tournament, as black and white fans packed into stadiums and fan parks together, 16 years after the first all-race elections ended white-minority rule.
“The social benefits are priceless. We have seen remarkable unity, patriotism and solidarity being displayed by South Africans, which has never been witnessed before,” Zuma said Tuesday.
Zuma has already mooted the idea of hosting the Olympics following on the World Cup’s success, and Durban quickly offered itself as a potential candidate.
“Having the wonderful games in Durban confirms that we are capable,” said mayor Obed Mlaba. “If you give us the Olympics, we can handle them.”
The enthusiasm for Durban’s highest-profile match yet was tinged with sadness at seeing the city’s World Cup party draw to an end.
“It’s going to be bad when it’s over, because during the World Cup we managed to make a business,” said Daniel Sithole, a taxi driver who works in the popular beachfront area.
“If there is no event in the city, sometimes I sit here without a customer,” he said.
Durban hosted seven World Cup games, and has aggressively marketed itself as the tournament’s warmest venue, with balmy weather while the rest of South Africa shivers through winter.
“It’s the first time in my life that I’ve seen a festival like this here. I don’t care how long it takes, I want to see another World Cup here,” said Emmanuel Mkhize, as he walked along the beachfront.
After the Durban clash, all eyes will be on the final at the calabash-shaped Soccer City stadium on Sunday in Johannesburg.
A dozen foreign leaders are expected at the game, including Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose nation will host the next World Cup in 2014.
Zimbabwe’s long-ruling President Robert Mugabe is also expected at the game, along with the kings of Lesotho and Swaziland and leaders of Togo, Malawi, Comoros and Mozambique, according to the foreign ministry.
“The heads of state will be here to celebrate with South Africa for hosting such a successful event,” said spokesman Saul Molobi.
The final match will be preceded by a 90-minute closing ceremony headlined by Shakira and South Africa’s Grammy-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
“Our brief for the opening was to celebrate Africa, and the uniqueness of it,” whereas our brief for the closing is to celebrate the tournament and the participants,” said Abey Mokgwatsane, director of VWV consortium, which is producing the show.