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Africa's best eye 2010

Date: Aug 14 2006
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With the dust barely settled on Germany 2006 , the thoughts of many on planet football have already turned to the next edition in four years time in South Africa. Preparations are already underway, as the entire continent gears up to host the world's biggest sporting event for the first time in its history.

And who better to explain the sense of anticipation felt by the continent's hundreds of millions of inhabitants than three of the biggest names in African football. Mustafá Hadji, Roger Milla and Kalusha Bwalya share their feelings, and those of their fellow Africans, with as they look forward to South Africa 2010.

'Unity is key'

The passing years seem to have had little effect on Mustafá Hadji. With his long curly hair still tied back, the brilliant Moroccan playmaker appears just as he did when he impressed the watching world at France 98. The energy is still there - he looks as if he could tear off on a mazy run at any moment - and when he speaks, it's impossible to doubt the sincerity of his words. "I'm so happy that the World Cup will be held in Africa. It is something the entire continent has dreamed about, and now it's coming to pass."

His native Morocco has twice been on the shortlist to host the FIFA World Cup™, but Hadji is not bitter that past decisions went against his country. "It would have been exciting to see my homeland host the event but, truth be told, the actual country chosen is not what's important. All of Africa will be welcoming the world in 2010, and it's this sense of unity that will bring us forward."

'It's going to be perfect'

Roger Milla is one of most influential African footballers of all time. Who could forget the Cameroonian's joyous celebration at Italia 90 when, at the tender age of 38, he danced at the corner flag to commemorate one of his many memorable goals? Such is his stature on the continent that there are few people better qualified to talk about African football than he.

"Africa is going to organise an impeccable World Cup. It's going to be perfect, and the whole world will be amazed at what my continent will offer in 2010," he announced. "It will be a real party and everyone will have a great time. You won't see any difference from the spectacular organisation we just witnessed in Germany. South Africa will be equally impeccable." On the subject of how the African nations will perform, Milla is very clear: "We saw Ghana match Brazil at Germany 2006, and Cote d'Ivoire unlucky not to progress from a very tough group. Not even Angola and Togo looked out of place. These African sides can be contenders in 2010, and don't forget there are other big nations, like Cameroon and Nigeria."

'The continent is prepared'

Despite coming close on several occasions, Kalusha Bwalya never had the good fortune to take part in the latter stages of a FIFA World Cup. In his last attempt, less than a year ago, his native Zambia came within one game of qualifying from a very tough group that included Togo and Senegal. Nonetheless, the legendary striker knows only too well that the tournament is the most important in the international game. At Germany 2006 he played a prominent role in FIFA's Technical Study Group and, as he spends a great deal of his time in his home continent, is more than qualified to talk about South Africa 2010.

"Africa will have the chance to organise a World Cup its own way. It's going to be full of joy - a reflection of us Africans. That will be its defining characteristic. The continent is prepared and will show its best side to the rest of the world. Everyone will have a good time," predicts hands-down Zambia's greatest-ever player. Kalusha knows South Africa well and says that everyone is beginning to feel the onset of finals fever. "People are already getting enthusiastic about the tournament. Preparations are underway to make sure everything works out well. I also believe that the African nations will have a good tournament and provide a lot of enjoyment for everyone."