Doubts erased: Three cheers for Africa | sports | Hindustan Times
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Doubts erased: Three cheers for Africa

sports Updated: Jul 12, 2010 01:02 IST
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At a bustling market in this giant city, a shoe salesman sitting in front of his stall does not hesitate when asked whether Africa's first World Cup has taught people a thing or two about his continent.

"I believe that they have seen it as a place not what they had in mind," says 29-year-old Edmund Chukwuka Alubi, whose shop is located in the once crime-ridden Oshodi district, which is now a point of pride for Lagos.

The first World Cup hosted by an African nation has been far more than a game, boosting confidence across the continent and raising hopes that more investment, tourism and major events will follow.

But perhaps the most important result is one that many Africans say they have long been unfairly denied: respect.

From the 15-million-strong metropolis of Lagos, which rivals Cairo as Africa's largest city, to the streets of Kinshasa and Nairobi, residents say they hope the image of a dysfunctional contineant awash in violence can at least partly begin to fade.

"It to some degree removes the inferiority complex," said Barthelemy Mayonde Kolongo, who organises the annual Terre d'Afrique music festival in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Africa's image emerges stronger. The disorder that people thought would occur did not happen. It proves that Africa is capable of organising any sort of global event."

No one's kidding themselves. This is a huge, diverse continent where many countries face a long list of problems both daunting and tragic.They range from ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo's east to violence in Somalia and instability in nations like Guinea-Bissau, which has been rocked by large-scale drug trafficking.

Corruption has held back countries with huge potential, such as Nigeria, where oil wealth has been squandered and the government has been unable to provide its citizens with basic services, including sufficient electricity.

But the effects of the World Cup go far beyond teaching outsiders what a vuvuzela sounds like, many say. While South Africa is richer and more stable than much of the continent, the impact of the world seeing Africans successfully organise the globe's biggest sporting event could reverberate continent-wide, observers and fans said.

"All those who thought that nothing works in Africa will change -- they're going to have a new outlook," said Blaise Makassa, an engineer.

The satisfaction for many Africans has been made greater by the fact that there were so many doubts before the tournament began. Fears whether preparations were on track proved overblown.