JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Back in Johannesburg for the first time since their maiden World Cup triumph in the city, senior members of the Spain squad spoke on Sunday of their memories of 2010 and their desire to reward the South Africans for their hospitality and support.
Spain take on South Africa in a friendly on Tuesday at the same Soccer City stadium where they beat Netherlands 1-0 after extra time in the final three years ago.
Spanish federation (RFEF) president Angel Maria Villar also took the chance on Sunday to parade the World Cup trophy in nearby Potchefstroom where the squad were based.
“They are all really great memories, it seems like it was yesterday but the years are marching on,” Sergio Ramos told a news conference at the Orlando stadium in Soweto.
“The South Africans gave us a lot of support and we are very fond of them,” said the Real Madrid defender, adding that his most cherished memories of 2010 were Andres Iniesta’s 116th-minute winning goal in the final and the referee blowing the whistle to signal Spain’s victory.
“In that moment I felt very proud to be Spanish and to play for my country,” he said.
”I have a replica of the World Cup and big photos in my office and every time I go home I see them.
“We didn’t win some neighborhood dancing competition but a World Cup and it is something to be proud of for life.”
Atletico Madrid forward David Villa, whose rich vein of scoring form helped to propel Spain to the final, said returning to South Africa was a joyous experience.
He and his team mates wanted to enjoy their days in Johannesburg as well as the match against the hosts, he added.
“We want to thank the South Africans for the kindness they showed us on our path to becoming world champions,” he told reporters.
Villa said he was even looking forward to hearing the distinctive sound of the plastic vuvuzela trumpets that defined the 2010 World Cup for many fans.
“It was something that had a big impact throughout the whole competition and it makes us remember and laugh about the noise people were making,” he added. “It’s been a very long trip but it’s great to be back.”
Writing by Iain Rogers in Madrid, editing by Clare Fallon