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Boston Gears Up For 2010 World Cup07:24
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In this October 2006 file photo, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, right, and restaurateur Nick Varano hoist a replica of the soccer World Cup Trophy at a restaurant in the North End. Nearly three months after Italy defeated France to win the World Cup, a replica of the winner's' trophy came to Boston. (Steven Senne/AP)
In this October 2006 file photo, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, right, and restaurateur Nick Varano hoist a replica of the soccer World Cup Trophy at a restaurant in the North End. Nearly three months after Italy defeated France to win the World Cup, a replica of the winner's' trophy came to Boston. (Steven Senne/AP)

South Africa's time has come. Twenty years ago, the apartheid-ridden nation was barred from international sports. Nelson Mandela had tasted his first few months of freedom after his release from Robben Island prison. Soccer, he said, was a game that his fellow prisoners played to hold on to their sanity.

On Friday, South Africa hosts the FIFA World Cup, the most popular sporting event on earth. It's the first time in the tournament's 80 year history that the Cup has been held on African soil of any kind.

Boston is also gearing up for a soccer celebration. The city's home to the New England Revolution, huge soccer-loving immigrant communities, and vibrant youth leagues. Combine all that together, and you get the perfect recipe for World Cup Boston 2010, a festival of "futbol" around Boston that begins on Saturday.

We talk to the director of World Cup Boston 2010 and take a look teams and players to watch in this year's tournament, at the prospects for the U.S. soccer squad, and at what soccer means for South Africa.

And if you're not the type to weep over the Beautiful Game, here's a hint as to why the World Cup matters this year: Nelson Mandela spent 27 years as a political prisoner. He was released on February 11, 1990. Two days later, 85,000 South Africans cheered as Mandela made his first public appearance at Soccer City Stadium, the same place where on Friday, just as many will cheer as South Africa kicks off against Mexico in the opening match of the World Cup.

Guests:

  • Mary Tiseo, executive director of South Africa Partners and organizer of World Cup Boston 2010
  • Bill Littlefield, host of WBUR's Only A Game
  • Curt Nickisch, WBUR reporter and soccer geek

More on Boston Soccer:

This program aired on June 9, 2010.

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