World Cup road show starts

The annual Vodacom Challenge will this year feature the English giants ‘ a massive global football brand ‘ and the two leading teams in South Africa ‘ Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. Manchester United’s participation in the tournament has raised the bar and excited football chiefs in South Africa have been quick to link the visit of the Red Devils to the start of the 2010 World Cup roadshow. And they are right. For it’s not every year that Africa gets the chance to host such a high-profile football club like Manchester United for about a week. United are not only the biggest football club in the world but they are also one of the richest with a fan appeal base spread across the entire globe. For eight years, until this year, they were the richest football club in the world. Now, according to auditors Deloitte and Touche, United are now the second richest football club in the world behind Spanish giants Real Madrid ‘ a claim that has been questioned in a number of quarters. According to the Deloitte Football Money League, Madrid’s income has doubled in the past five years, as players such as David Beckham have boosted shirt sales. The Deloitte review does not include the cost of transfer fees or player wages and concentrates solely on day-to-day income from football business such as ticket sales, merchandising and broadcast revenues. United’s income for last season fell to ‘166.4m from ‘171.5m the year before and this was largely due to reduced earnings from broadcasting revenues both on the home and European fronts at the Manchester club did not win either the league championship or the Champions League. “United remain one of the foremost brands in the industry and are still clearly the most profitable club in terms of day-to-day operations,” said Dan Jones, partner at Deloitte’s business sports group. “The club will want to improve its performance on the pitch to help management’s efforts to increase commercial value.” United also play in the richest football league in the world ‘ the English Premiership, which has nearly 20 per cent of the ‘7.5bn-a-year European football market. Now the South Africans believe that the invitation of such a high-profile team to play in their country has a number of positive spin-offs, including bringing the global spotlight to a country that will host the 2010 World Cup. The chairman of the organising committee of the 2010 World Cup, Irvin Khoza, told journalists at the launch of the Vodacom Challenge in Johannesburg on Tuesday that the expected arrival of Manchester United would be a massive boost for football, not only in this region, but on the entire continent. “As South Africa prepares to host the Fifa 2010 World Cup in the name of Africa, it is time for the players of SA’s leading clubs such as Pirates and Chiefs to show the world that they have the necessary skills, discipline and passion that is required to be rated among the top club teams in the world,” said Khoza. The business tycoon is also the owner of Pirates ‘ one of the leading brands in South African football. Pirates are the only team from Southern Africa to have won the African Champions League when they beat Asec Mimosas of Cote d’Ivoire in the final in 1995. They are also doing very well in this year’s competition and should qualify for the mini-league phase this week after beating Sudanese side El-Hilal in their first leg tie 2-0 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg last week. Together with their Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs, Pirates have absolute control of the football market in South Africa and they are also making huge inroads around the region where it is common to see fans wearing their replica jerseys. Chiefs have won the last two league championships in South Africa and have the biggest support base, especially among the fashionable youths in the townships. The club’s managing director Kaizer Motaung believes the Vodacom Challenge, featuring such a huge brand like Manchester United, will be a milestone. “This tournament presents the perfect opportunity for South Africa’s up and coming soccer talent to come to the fore against an international club of the magnitude of Manchester United,” said Motaung. United director Bobby Charlton attended the launch of the Vodacom Challenge in South Africa on Tuesday. Charlton is a United legend who survived the plane crash in Munich, Germany, in 1958 that wiped out a generation of the finest of Manchester United players known as the Busby Babes. He survived to play for United in the European Cup final in 1968 against Portuguese giants Benfica which the English side won 4-1 at Wembley. Charlton allayed fears that United will bring a weakened side because some of their star players will have been gutted by World Cup commitments. “Man United has a great squad and whatever happens, we will be able to bring a strong squad. I know Alex (Ferguson) always wants to win and he will put together a good team. “I know they will be tough matches but everyone who comes to watch will have a great time. “We are confident that the Vodacom Challenge will see many familiar faces including Ryan Giggs, Ole Gunner Solksjaer and Paul Scholes. “After the World Cup squad announcements on May 22, we will be able to confirm the best available first team that will be touring South Africa,” said Charlton. Giggs is one of the most popular United players around the world ‘ a true Red Devil ‘ who has spent all his career playing for the club. Unlike other high-profile players in the world, Giggs will not be involved in the World Cup finals in Germany because his country ‘ Wales ‘ failed to qualify for the showcase. That means, barring any injuries, he will be available to play for United on this tour. Gritty midfielder Paul Scholes retired from international football and will not be involved in Germany for England. He battled against a mysterious sight problem this year but should be fine for the trip to this part of the world. This year’s Vodacom Challenge will break from tradition and will not feature four teams but just three. Normally the tournament has always featured four teams ‘ Chiefs and Pirates and two others invited from African countries. Zimbabwe’s glamour club Dynamos were invited to the tournament in 2000. This year’s tournament will be played in three provinces starting on July 15 when Pirates take on United at the Absa Stadium in Durban. Three days later Chiefs will get their chance to take on United at Newlands in Cape Town. Thirteen years ago Chiefs played United at Ellis Park in Johannesburg and the match ended 1-1. United will take a rest in the next match when Chiefs and Pirates clash in a derby at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenberg. Then the winner of that match will get the right to play United in the final at Loftus on July 22. South Africa expects to rake in billions of dollars as it cashes on one of the biggest sporting events on the world calendar being hosted in Africa for the first time. The country also expects its neighbours to also cash in on the project. Countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Botswana are being encouraged to upgrade their own football facilities to attract World Cup bound teams who might want ti use their bases for training purposes. Such major tourist destinations like the Victoria Falls can expect a huge increase in tourists during that period. About 400 000 visitors for the 2010 World Cup are expected to pour into South Africa. Television coverage of the World Cup will bring South Africa into the homes of new tourism markets such as Brazil, Argentina, eastern Europe, Russia, Japan and South Korea. The country expects the tournament to create 160 000 jobs.

April 2006
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