Beginning on Friday, June 11, 2010, the FIFA World Cup will encompass 30 days of football (soccer) played in 10 stadiums scattered over 9 cities. They are expecting over 300,000 visitors from all parts of the world. This will translate into 2.74 million spectators with a TV audience of some 40 billion watching the 200 hours of football.
Excitement is reaching fever pitch as South Africa gears up for the first football (soccer) World Cup to be held on African soil. Half the world will be able to watch the final which expects to see 3.3 billion people glued to their sets. In addition a further 14 million visitors will be watching games on Big Screens at the fan parks.
Christian groups and churches have been mobilized to take advantage of the opportunity for evangelism present by the World Cup.
Tim Tucker, Program Coordinator of the local organizing committee of The Ultimate Goal (TUG), says, “This is our time and our moment. Never again in our lifetime will we have this unique opportunity. We need to seize the moment. We have the message and the vehicle to deliver that message. If we don’t rise to the challenge it will be gone tomorrow.”
President Jacob Zuma
Many churches have planned special services and even mini football (soccer) tournaments. Festivals including drama and dance are being staged to involve local communities and share the gospel. With tickets to the major games being scarce many groups are planning big screen showings of the games which will also include special gospel presentations and testimonies from local Christian sports stars.
A substantial supply of resource materials is available. This includes 140,000 copies of the “Twenty10 Pocket Guide” which includes player profiles and testimonies, a full schedule of games and venues, numerous World Cup facts and figures and a presentation of the way of salvation. Athletes in Action have produced a special DVD called, “The Prize” which features high profile Christian players such as Kaka, Lucio, Marcus Senna, Nicola Legrotalle and Tim Howard.
The South African government has extended the normal school holiday period by two weeks to cover the World Cup period. Churches have taken advantage of this by planning holiday clubs with special resource material prepared for the World Cup.
A major program called, “Ubabalo” has been developed to train 2,000 coaches to present football (soccer) and life skills as well as spiritual motivation. There is a comprehensive curriculum that will facilitate coaches and players to develop sound values.
South African President attends special prayer meeting for the World Cup
Meanwhile thousands of women burst into deafening cheers as controversial South African President Jacob Zuma arrived at a prayer meeting at the Zamdela stadium in Sasolburg, South Africa last week.
Zuma has faced significant legal challenges prior to his election as South African President in 2009. He was charged with rape in 2005, but was acquitted. In addition, he fought a long legal battle over allegations of racketeering and corruption, resulting from his financial advisor Schabir Shaik’s conviction for corruption and fraud. On April 6, 2009, the National Prosecuting Authority decided to drop the charges citing political interference. He assumed office on May 9, 2009.
Zuma was at the prayer meeting for the FIFA World Cup scheduled to take place in South Africa, June 11 through to July 11. He was ushered into the stadium by a large group of dignitaries and bodyguards wearing scarves in the colors of the South African flag.
The crowd of mostly women in traditional church wear gathered en masse in the stadium. They created a festive atmosphere with singers on the stage and people dancing and waving South African and African National Congress flags. They blew on their vuvuzelas under a marquee tent set up on the soccer pitch, as the main grandstand filled up. (Vuvuzelas emit a monotonous noise like a deep foghorn or an elephant. They became popular in South Africa in the 1990s and are a feature of major soccer matches in South Africa.) Vuvuzelas have been controversial and some high profile soccer personalities and broadcasters have called for them to be banned ahead of the upcoming World Cup. Critics point out that the instrument is blown haphazardly, which can be distracting to players and coaches who are trying to pay attention to the game.
Stampede puts dampener on build up
Former South African president, Nelson Mandela, holding the FIFA World Cup
The build up to the World Cup received its first major setback on Sunday when a stampede took place during which at least 15 people were injured. Thousands of fans tried to push their way into a local stadium to watch a pre-World Cup match between Nigeria and North Korea only five days before the tournament gets under way.
The stampede was triggered mostly by Nigeria supporters, holding what police said were photocopies of tickets, trying to push their way into the 10,000-seater Makhulong stadium after the game had started, according to witnesses.
The incident marred a day when more fans and teams flew in to South Africa which hosts the month-long football jamboree, the world’s most watched sporting event, from Friday.
Nico Bougas is the International Coordinator of Hellenic Ministries. (www.hellenicministries.com). He also serves as the Consulting and Sports Editor for Joy Magazine. He has a master’s degree in communication from Wheaton Graduate School and M.Div and D. Min degrees from Trinity Theological Seminary. He is the author or co-author of 4 books including, “Champions for Christ”. He previously worked for Youth for Christ in South Africa and was Editor of In Magazine and Christian Living TODAY. For further information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel 941.567.0256