As football fever takes hold of the world for the next month, the majority of South Africans believe in the potential long-term benefits of hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup, such as national unity and improving the country's image as a tourist destination.
According to the latest market research conducted on FIFA's behalf, 89% of people surveyed said they believe that the major event will "leave a lasting legacy and be remembered fondly over generations," 80% feel it will unite the people of South Africa and 93% believe the images of the country beamed out across the world will lure more tourists in future.
Overall, public opinion towards the 2010 World Cup is overwhelmingly positive, with 13% of respondents believing in the national team's chances of victory. Most South Africans (37%), however, cited five-time world champions Brazil as favourites.
The Cup kicks off today (11 June) with a match opposing the host country and Mexico.
The process of qualifying for the tournament began back in August 2007 and involved 204 of the 208 FIFA national teams.
Thirty-two national teams will play 64 games before the final on 11 July.
Football for development
In July 2006, the European Commission and FIFA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote football as a factor for development in Africa, in the Caribbean and in Pacific countries (EURACTIV 11/07/06).
The MoU covers areas ranging from development cooperation and humanitarian aid to racism, post-conflict reconstruction, nation-building, health and education.
The EU executive is currently co-funding a project in South Africa with €10 million to empower disadvantaged youth in South Africa and other African countries through culture, arts and sports activities.
Sport activities supported include a 'School Sport Mass Participation Programme', the development of training modules and materials, training of sport coordinators, testing and dissemination of school football leagues and the organisation of 'football for development' events during and after the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The Commission is also co-funding a two-year European NGO initiative Football for Development, which aims to use the popularity and universality of football as a unique entry point to raise awareness on development issues and to promote education for development among young people.