LONDON Nov 9 Winning the right to stage next year's World Cup may have been a bigger moment for South Africa even than the end of apartheid, according to the chief organiser of the soccer extravaganza.
Danny Jordaan told Reuters in an interview that when the envelope was opened in 2004 granting South Africa the 2010 event, "I think it was almost a second liberation for us, it was huge moment of joy... the second affirmation of the worth of our country."
He added: "For me, to think back on special moments in our history: the day that Nelson Mandela walked out of prison, the day that we voted for the first time in 1994 -- the beginning of democracy in our country -- this day (winning the World Cup) stands equal if not ahead as an experience and a significant development in the history of our country."
White rule ended in 1994 when South Africans elected Nelson Mandela as president in the country's first multi-racial vote.
Jordaan said in the Sunday interview that his primary emotion before the decision in Zurich was fear that South Africa would fail to win the event, as it did narrowly for the 2006 World Cup, which was awarded to Germany.
He said such a blow would have hurt the whole of Africa.
"Fear that defeat again will destroy any belief in our country that we should make a bid not just for the World Cup but for any other major event, and secondly that the doubt on the continent would be strengthened, certainly from the Southern African point of view."
Jordaan, who has said the World Cup may have a major impact in bringing the races together in nationalist fervour in South Africa, said that the importance of winning such a huge event -- the most watched sports spectacle on earth -- could only be understood in the context of South African history.
"You must understand the background that it comes from. From a country where the majority of people were told over three hundred years you are less, simply because of the colour of your skin. All those issues welled up on us."
(Editing by Justin Palmer
To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)
Our top photos from the last 24 hours.