BERLIN — Archbishop Desmond Tutu believes the 2010 World Cup
is a good chance to demonstrate the gains South Africa
has made since the end of apartheid.
Tutu has long championed increased rights for minorities and
the importance of friendship across ethnic boundaries.
"This thing is as important as Obama getting into the White House,"
he told reporters Friday at the South African Embassy
in the German capital.
"For people of color everywhere, it would lift them."
The anti-apartheid stalwart was a thorn in the side of
the white government, helping to bring about
the end of apartheid in 1994 when
Nelson Mandela became the country's first black president.
The 77-year-old Tutu coined the phrase
"rainbow nation" to describe
South Africa's mix of races, cultures and languages.
Tutu said the World Cup — like the just-completed
Confederations Cup — will give South Africans the opportunity
to take pride in the steps their country
has taken in terms of social progress.
"That would be the greatest thing — helping
our people come together, seeing all of
our people with a new pride," he said.
The 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate recalled the excitement
that enveloped the country in 1995 when it hosted
the Rugby World Cup, ultimately winning
the tournament with a 15-12 upset of New Zealand.
"It did more for our country's reconciliation than all
my sermons for a year," he said, adding that sports go
a long way in promoting both racial and cultural unity.
"If human beings of all these different colors can
come together ... then there is hope
for the world," he said.
As to fears South Africa has fallen behind in building
the infrastructure for the World Cup,
Tutu said skepticism about its ability would be proven wrong.
"You know what? We've been free for only 15 years!
" he said. "Give us a chance!"
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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