South Africa leader says 2010 is year of football

South Africa’s president says hosting the World Cup will make

2010 the country’s most important year since apartheid ended in


In a New Year’s message released Thursday, Jacob Zuma says South

Africa already has reaped benefits ahead of the football tournament

next June and July.

He says construction work to build new stadiums and roads has

helped reduce the impact of the global recession.

Zuma says that South Africans must ensure long-lasting benefits

for the nation.

South Africa will be the first African country to host the

biggest event for the world’s most popular sport. At least half a

million visitors are expected.