World Cup made Spain fall in love with Southern Africa

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Harare - The moment English referee Howard Webb blew the final whistle to cap a scintillating FIFA World Cup final between victors Spain and Netherlands at the iconic FNB Stadium in South Africa on July 11, 2010, a new era began.

Back in Madrid, the Spanish capital, and other cities in the European country, the triumph - sealed via the boot of man-of-the-match Andres Iniesta in the 116th minute - was met with wild celebrations.

While Arjen Robben and his Netherlands teammates lay on the turf cursing fate, Spanish heroes Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, David Villa, Sergio Ramos, Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas, among others, danced to the sound of vuvuzelas.

They fell in love with vuvuzelas that day. And also with Southern Africa. 

That it was the first World Cup tournament to be held in Africa, and that it was a maiden victory for Spain, meant an unbreakable bond had been formed.

The Spanish top-flight, La Liga has since grown tentacles in Southern Africa, and several Under-17 and Under-20 players from the region have been given opportunities to showcase themselves in Spain. 

La Liga side Real Betis has also set up an Academy in Zimbabwe, and intends to spread across Africa.

After attending the Real Betis Academy’s first training session in Harare this week, Spain’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Santiago Gomez said: “The link between Spain and Southern Africa basically, as far as sport is concerned, started with Spain’s victory in the World Cup in 2010 in South Africa.

“For that reason, the Spanish roots in Southern Africa are deep and they keep on stretching. So that has a lot to do with La Liga coming into this region and I am really pleased, it’s a wonder. The Southern part of Africa and the continent as a whole occupy a special place in the hearts of Spain people.

“It was Africa’s first time to host the World Cup and it was the first time that Spain won the World Cup. The relationship can only be improved further otherwise that is iconic and historic.”

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