South Africa kicks off World Cup

Country makes history as continent's first nation to host the prestigious football tournament.

    A spectacular opening ceremony dazzled fans with an array of entertainers [AFP]

    The World Cup has kicked off in Johannesburg, South Africa, with fans filling a 91,000-capacity stadium in Soccer City to watch an opening ceremony packed with colour, traditional dancing and music.

    Celebrations were held on Friday as South Africa made history as the first African country to host the tournament.

    The ceremony was followed by the first game of the tournament between South Africa and Mexico, which ended in 1-1 draw.

    The match was followed by a game between Uruguay and France that also ended in a draw without either team scoring a single point.

    The two games were the first of 64 to be played over the next month, with the final scheduled for July 11.


    Small groups waving the national flag and blowing vuvuzela trumpets strolled into the stadium on Friday morning, after going through a security checkpoint and ticket inspection.

    "This moment has finally arrived. South Africa is witnessing a historic moment. I am looking forward to the game in the afternoon," said Tshepo Sehole, who travelled overnight from the eastern province of Mpumalanga.

    A police helicopter hovered above the stadium, covered in clay-coloured panels to resemble an African calabash pot.

    Bheki Cele, the national police chief, said 34,000 police were deployed around the stadium, aided by 10,000 reservists patrolling all public areas.

    Shadow of tragedy

    Casting a shadow was the death of Nelson Mandela's 13-year-old great granddaughter in a car crashafter Thursday night's kick-off concert in what police say was a drunk driving accident in downtown Johannesburg.

    Although being 83rd in the rankings, one of the lowest-rated World Cup hosts, the South African team have been unbeaten in their last 12 matches and are new national heroes.

    First World Cup to be held on the continent of Africa kicked off in style in Johannesburg

    Their performance has added to an unprecedented rush of nationalistic excitement in South Africa, which was tormented for years by pessimism that the world's most watched sporting event was too big for Africa to handle.

    That pessimism has been transformed in recent weeks, encouraged by Fifa's belated decision to sell tickets for cash, rather than credit card, online and other complicated systems of selling.

    There have also been concerns about the security situation in South Africa, with many locals complaining that international media reports have been too sensationalist.

    Authorities in South Africa have said that police forces were ready to fight crime and secure the safety of all fans at the World Cup.

    For the latest World Cup 2010 coverage, click here.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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