Johannesburg — The month-long football World Cup tournament which began on June 11 comes to an end this evening at the Soccer City stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa as two European nations - Spain and Netherlands - who have never won the competition before battle for the most glamorous football trophy.
Former South African president, Dr. Nelson Mandela will have the honour of presenting the 18-carat gold trophy to the eventual winner as the Local Organising Committee (LOC) promised a colourful closing ceremony.
Part of the colour for the ceremony will be provided by Nigerian ace musician, 2face Idibia and Colombian diva, Shakira who will entertain the close to 90,000 spectators expected to witness the falling of the curtain of the first World Cup to be held on the African continent.
Although Mandela, who missed the opening ceremony on June 11, due to the death of his grand daughter 24 hours earlier, has not signalled that he would be present at Soccer City today, FIFA President, Sepp Blatter has said should the global icon be present then, he would be the one to present the trophy to whoever wins between Holland and Spain.
Blatter's statement clearly shows how highly FIFA thinks of the former president because usually, the trophy presentation is done by the President of the host nation (in this case, South Africa's Jacob Zuma) in conjunction with the FIFA President himself. Officials of the Nelson Mandela Foundation have said a decision on whether Mandela would be at the grand finale would be made today.
After a month of football action and (63) matches played, the two surviving teams of the 32 that kicked off the quest to land the biggest prize in world football last month square up against each other from 7.30pm (Nigerian time).
Spain start off as slight favourites even though their opponents, Holland have outscored them by 12 to 7 goals in the six games played to reach today's final. However, the brand of football Spain has so far exhibited is not only exhilarating, but has also seen them only concede two goals to Holland's five.
Incidentally both teams are yet to win the World Cup even though the Dutch have appeared in the final twice in the 70s (Germany'74 where they lost 2-1 to the hosts and Argentina'78 where they again lost to the host nation 3-1). Spain is, however, appearing in their first ever World Cup final.
Spain, current European champions, have already received a boost before even kicking the ball, with Paul, the clairvoyant octopus, tipping them to beat the Dutch today. Though a sea animal, Paul has attracted global media attention by successfully predicting the winners of matches involving the German national team, including the loss to Spain in the semi-finals!
In another twist, ace photographer and journalist, Sunmi Smart-Cole has enjoined all Africans to root for Spain during today's match. According to him. "Every lover of freedom and justice should root and pray for Spain. The World is suffering from collective or selective amnesia. The Dutch are blood relations of the Boers who settled and practiced Apartheid - the worst type of racial discrimination - in South Africa. Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko and thousands of Black Africans were jailed or killed.
As a youngster, I carried placards and joined adults to match against the Sharpville killings. For Holland to win the World Cup, in South Africa, will be the greatest insult to Africans at home and in diaspora," he said.
However, before the final match is played, Africa's first FIFA World Cup is set to close in a blaze of lights and music. According to organisers, the closing ceremony is set to be a colourful, celebratory tribute to the tournament, the fans and their experiences in the host country during what's been a memorable month.
The 30-minute night-time ceremony will start at 5.30pm Nigerian time and will be broadcast live in 215 countries to an audience in excess of 500-million viewers and will feature 780 cast members and some of South Africa and Africa's top musicians and dancers.
Columbian pop star, Shakira will feature at her second successive FIFA World Cup closing ceremony, performing the hit song "Waka Waka" with South Africa's Freshlyground. The catchy song has topped the global music charts in 15 countries and was the most watched video on the internet in June 2010, with over 70 million hits on You Tube to date.
Gates to the Soccer City Stadium will be thrown open six hours before kick off and spectators have been urged to be seated at least two hours before kick off in order to be part of the historic closing ceremony of Africa's first FIFA World Cup.
Meanwhile, at least 15 world leaders are expected to be physically present at the Soccer City Stadium to watch the final. Among them are the Prime Ministers of the two finalists, Jan Peter Balke-nende of The Netherlands and his Spanish counterpart José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.