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'Ke Nako' for SA - Mabbsy

Gary Mabbutt is approaching the end of what he describes as ‘an incredible journey'.

Gary Mabbutt is approaching the end of what he describes as ‘an incredible journey'.

Our legendary former captain accepted an invitation from Danny Jordaan, now CEO of the 2010 World Cup, to become a World Cup ambassador for South Africa back in 2002.

Since then, he's been with South Africa every step of the way, from the launch of the bid and FIFA awarding the showpiece to the country in 2004 right up to Friday, when he will be at the opening ceremony and first match of the tournament between the hosts and Mexico at Soccer City, Johannesburg.

With just 48 hours to go before the dream becomes a reality, Gary reflected on the last eight years and summed up the feeling of the host nation in one phrase - ‘Ke Nako' or ‘it's our time'.

"During my last couple of seasons at Tottenham, the English government was running development programmes in South Africa, I was captain of the club at the time and they asked me to get involved," said Gary, third behind Steve Perryman and Pat Jennings in our all-time appearance list.

"I went to South Africa for a week and worked in the townships of Umlazi in Durban, Khaylitsha in Cape Town, Soweto and Alexandra.

"During that time I became very good friends with Danny Jordaan, who was involved on the football side and eventually became the CEO of the World Cup.

"Danny asked me if I would come on board and try to help them win the World Cup bid. I've been to South Africa two or three months of the year for the last eight years.

"It's been an incredible journey. The first two years we worked on the bid and trying to win the World Cup, in 2004 it was announced that South Africa had won the bid and for the last six years, I've been helping with preparations for the tournament.

"Since 2004, I've helped with team bases, advised on what teams will require, facilities, worked on the legacy side of the bid, worked in townships, coached and helped various new projects.

"In that time the country has built six new stadiums and three absolutely world-class stadiums in Cape Town, Durban and Soccer City in Johannesburg. To watch it happen has been quite incredible.

"The amount of infrastructure improvements, the roads, the hotels, communications - work that should have perhaps been done over the last 20 years, the World Cup has been a catalyst for it all to happen.

"All the work has been achieved, everything is in place and now it's time to deliver hopefully the biggest carnival of football the world has ever seen.

"But it's not just a World Cup about football. It's a World Cup about a continent, about Africa showing the world what it has to offer. This is a huge opportunity to change the world's perception of what Africa is all about and the country is ready to do that."

Gary is pictured at the top of the page at the opening of the Tottenham Hotspur House in the SOS Children's Village at Rustenburg, South Africa. SOS Children's Villages is our international charity and the world's largest orphan charity. CLICK HERE for more...