Pride, joy and gratitude
As part of FIFA’s Win in Africa with Africa development initiative, the first of a planned total of 53 artificial pitches was officially unveiled in the Congolese city of Pointe Noire on 18 January. The premiere was impressive.
Isidore Mvouba takes hold of Issa Hayatou’s right hand and gives it a firm squeeze. “It’s simply marvelous, and so important for our country!” he tells the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA vice-president.
The prime minister of the Republic of the Congo is visibly moved. Under FIFA’s Win in Africa with Africa project, launched by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in connection with the 2010 FIFA World Cup TM in South Africa, each of the world governing body’s 53 African member associations is to receive a premium-quality artificial pitch. The first of them is unveiled in Congo at a vibrant ceremony on this January day.
Leaden, humid heat lies over Pointe Noire, the country’s second largest city with its 900,000 population and its economic hub, courtesy of the local oil reserves. Even the locals are covered in sweat. Shirts are soaked through in a matter of minutes. Breathing is difficult, more a question of gasping for air. Yet despite the blistering heat, the mood outside the Stade Municipal is far from lethargic. Music and dance groups showcase their talents as more African rhythms blast out of giant speakers. Outside this little gem of a stadium, thousands of curious onlookers crane their necks, desperate not to miss any of the colorful and unique goings-on.
Pointe Noire is in party mood. A city celebrates FIFA, CAF, the government and themselves. Hundreds of guests, some in suit and tie, others in magnificent, brightly colored garb, pull in cars. As at the Oscars, they walk along a red carpet to their seats in a temporary stand at the stadium’s main entrance. The throng of onlookers crowds around the fence, welcoming the guests from near and far with tumultuous applause, cheers and song.
Senior government representatives have come. The minister for sport accompanies the prime minister. They are joined by diplomats from Angola, Togo and the People’s Republic of China (a Chinese company built the stadium). Hayatou and other CAF officials are also in attendance, as are the representatives of the world governing body. The FIFA President himself was unable to travel to the central African country as he was visiting the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) in Papua New Guinea at the time.