Obama: I never doubted SA

2010-07-15 09:06
Sarel van der Walt, Beeld

Washington - US President Barack Obama says he never doubted that South Africa would be able to host a successful 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Obama told the SABC in an interview at the White House on Wednesday that South Africa was not only a "national but a world treasure".

The American president said when he visited South Africa before taking office, he had realised that there was an "extraordinary energy" among South Africans.

Pride

After he got to know President Jacob Zuma and understood more of the pride with which Zuma spoke about South Africa, he was convinced that the World Cup would be a success.

Obama said he believed South Africans shared Zuma's pride in the country.

"Naturally the World Cup was not only a wonderful showcase for South Africa but for Africa as a whole.

"It showed that Africa - despite the stereotypes and false perspectives - could function effectively when given the opportunity because this is a continent with many leaders, entrepreneurs and governments," said Obama.

Africa now has to build on the positive image that it has after the World Cup.

The American president said the US would like to work with the countries in Africa that want to expand their own capabilities without being dependent on foreign financial aid in the long run.

America will supply the necessary resources.

Spoke to Mandela

Obama also said former president Nelson Mandela set the bar for the leadership that was needed in Africa.

When he spoke to Mandela last month to send his condolences following the death of his great-grandchild in a car accident, the former president was as charming and clear-headed as ever, Obama said.

Mandela was still a role model for the whole world, he added.

Meanwhile UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said that irrespective of the results on the football field, Africa and the people of South Africa had been the ultimate winners of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

He congratulated South Africa and expressed the hope that the country's successful hosting of the event would again direct the focus on Africa and that it would lead to an African renaissance.

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