Pretoria — South Africa will kick off the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Week celebrations at Freedom Park in Pretoria on Wednesday with a prayer session for the successful hosting of the 2013 tournament.
Afcon Local Organising Committee (LOC) chief communications officer, Sipho Sithole, said the interfaith ceremony would be attended by Afcon LOC CEO Mvuzo Mbebe, members of the LOC board and representatives of the embassies for the 16 participating teams.
The ceremony will be held at Isivivane, situated on the eastern side of the hill at Freedom Park. It is regarded as the resting place of the spirits of those who died in the struggle for freedom and equality. The concept of Isivivane is derived from the word 'viva', which means 'to come together in a group'.
"As South Africa celebrates Afcon Week, religious leaders will gather in Tshwane and Rustenburg on Wednesday and Thursday to pray for a seamless and high quality tournament," said Sithole.
The ceremony at Freedom Park will start at 4am and will be inclusive of all the country's religious denominations.
"As Africans united in diversity, we reach out to God in more ways than one and we need to recognise the importance of African spirituality expressed in its various formations. Therefore, the gathering at Freedom Park is intended to bring together all the elements of African spirituality so as to seek blessings for a successful soccer tournament," he said.
After the prayer at the Freedom Park, the delegation, led by Mbebe, will depart to Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, where they will visit the learner from Dikgorwaneng Primary who won the competition to choose the tournament Mascot, Takuma.
Sithole said the Rustenburg interfaith ceremony will be held at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Phokeng, on Thursday at 10am. There will also be a flag raising ceremony for all Group D teams that will play their group matches at the venue.
The teams are Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Algeria and Togo.
On Friday, all host cities - Mbombela, Nelson Mandela Bay, Durban and Johannesburg - will host flag raising ceremonies of the teams that will be based at their respective cities for group stage matches.
"Other cities will also activate the Magnificent Friday programme in which the whole nation is urged to wear their football jerseys every Friday until the end of the tournament," he said.
Sithole said on Saturday, all roads will lead to Polokwane where soccer fans will be treated to what is expected to be an exciting international match between South African legends who won the 1996 Afcon title and the German legends at Peter Mokaba Stadium.
"On Sunday, we are urging the whole country to say special prayers for the LOC to host a successful 2013 Afcon tournament," he said.