The World Cup of soccer opened Friday in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the eyes of the world are on the African nation. Sadly, former South African President Nelson Mandela did not attend the opening ceremonies as expected, because his 13-year-old great-granddaughter was killed in an auto crash after she left a World Cup kickoff concert Thursday.
Teams of 32 countries from across the world are competing in the World Cup. The event stretches until the final on July 11, which will determine the world's soccer champion for the next four years.
Although the televised matches include some great contests, for Americans the World Cup has never attracted the kind of fanatical attention as the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Stanley Cup, or the NBA finals.
For the rest of the globe, the World Cup is the supreme moment of international sports. There is virtually no spirit to compare to that which surrounds the final match of the World Cup. Just about everyone in the finals countries watches and cares who wins.
The World Cup in South Africa is the first to be held on the continent. Teams from six African countries - Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and the host - will compete. None of them is predicted to be among the finalists.
The rap on African teams in general is that the sports officials of those countries do not let enough financial resources flow to the teams to make them competitive on a world scale.
The anticipated less-than-inspiring performance of the African national teams does not detract from the glory for Africa of hosting this event. When South Africa was chosen as host, there was some question whether it would be able to put together the considerable resources needed to make the competition succeed.
All reports are that South Africa is ready and eager to stage the Cup. Five new stadiums were constructed. The next month will tell. It should be great fun to watch.
Meanwhile, the world offers its condolences to the Mandela family.
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