Spoilers eye 2010

Two weeks ago the same gang, which wants the tournament moved from South Africa to Australia, caused a huge furore when it posted reports on a website that Fifa was considering shifting the showcase.

A number of websites have been created to scare away visitors from South Africa ‘ a ploy which the racists believe will dampen the mood in the countdown to the World Cup finals and force Fifa to shift the event elsewhere.

Graphic details about being published every day which paint a grim picture about South Africa being a crime-infested nation where visitors attending the World Cup finals could be raped en-masse between the airport and their hotels.

Other websites are claiming that ordinary South Africans are so poor that they will not afford tickets to watch World Cup matches in their own country with empty stadiums being a regular sight.

The other websites even claim that South Africa does not have the financial muscle to fund such a massive event and the World Cup ‘ which was a huge success in Germany ‘ will be a huge flop in four years’ time.

Such has been the intensity of the campaign that South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki was forced last week to dismiss the fears that his country ‘ Africa’s richest nation ‘ did not have the financial muscle to host the 2010 World Cup finals.

Mbeki told the international media that his country would fulfil all its requirements ‘ as laid down by Fifa ‘ in hosting the 2010 World Cup finals.

“We engaged in detailed discussion about what Fifa expects of the host country and that included matters of financial guarantees.

“So we have done all the sums and all the calculations and we are quite satisfied that we will be able to meet these obligations.”

There is no doubt that the World Cup is a huge showcase and that a budget of US$770 million needed for the construction and renovation of stadiums and US$1.1billion needed for the facelift of airports and public transport is a huge commitment.

It’s a budget enough to supply a country like Zimbabwe ‘ the second biggest economy in Southern Africa ‘ about three years’ supply of fuel.

Those opposing South Africa’s hosting of the tournament believe that the country cannot underwrite such a financial commitment without straining its resources to the extent of breaking point.

But Mbeki insists that everything was in order.

“This year’s budget already contained provisions for the World Cup.

“Franz Beckenbauer and the others in the German organising committee have said that as soon as the tournament is over here they are ready to help us prepare for 2010.

“The experience of hosting the cup here in Germany is critically important for us and in this context we will be able to solve problems. We have to draw a great deal from what has happened in this country.

“You will be surprised at the number of South Africans who are here now, who have paid the airfare, bought the tickets and are staying in hotels. They will have the money in 2010.”

This was probably in reference to the reports on the websites that South Africans are generally poor and would not afford World Cup tickets in 2010.

Mbeki said his country, contrary to the prophets of doom, would turn the 2010 World Cup finals into the best tournament in its history.

The South African President was in Germany where he witnessed the World Cup final and also met European Union and Fifa leaders.

“We said we will host in 2010 the most successful Fifa World Cup and we will keep that promise.

“Football is all about hope ‘ hope for a better world, a pastime which will touch the world and build a better future.

“We come from a place where football is not just a game but an enduring passion.

“Africa is ready, Africa’s time has come, Africa is calling. Come to Africa in 2010,” said Mbeki.

The participation of the home supporters is crucial to the success of a World Cup finals given that the foreign supporters usually leave the show when their teams are eliminated.

Half the 32 teams at the World Cup finals are eliminated during the group phase. That it took the office of the South African President to intervene in this issue just goes to show the concern that is in South Africa right now.

But the critics are now slowing down the pace in their drive to condemn the country.

The Crime Expo SA website last week urged crime victims to use the site to narrate their stories and send photographs which will be published unedited.

The site says that each year about 20 000 people are killed in South Africa.

“Insulting politicians is not going to do the trick. Protesting outside in the streets is not going to do the trick. Voting for a fancier politician is not going to do the trick.

“Telling the international tourist what is happening between the airport and hotel is going to do the trick.

“Each year about 20 000 people get slaughtered in the most gruesome manner by killers who have absolutely no respect for life.”

The site reports incidents of stones being thrown at cars on the highway between Cape Town airport and the city.

“We call on international tourists not to arrive at Cape Town International Airport as routes from there are a death trap.

“Like others, you might have your skull crushed with your brains splashed all over your vehicle within minutes after leaving the airport,” reads the site.

There are sections in the website that deal with rape, with murder, with farm attacks and with armed robbery.

But South African officials are fighting back.

Cape Town Tourism general manager Mariette du Toit told the Cape Times newspaper that the sight was very damaging to the interests of his country.

The IMC, a promotional body that deals with the nation’s interests abroad, said it was concerned about the site and the negative information contained there.

“We are concerned about the appropriateness of any information campaign that focuses only on the negatives and ignores the growing range of successes in the fight against crime,” it said in a statement distributed to the international media.

“Any campaign that instils fear and undermines the economic opportunities created by increased international tourism and investment can only add to the very problem (the site) seeks to address.”

The South Africans, crucially, have the support of Fifa president Sepp Blatter who was tireless in ensuing that Africa should hold its first World Cup in four years’ time.

Blatter was instrumental in forcing his colleagues in Fifa to adopt a rotational policy that would give continents like Africa a chance to host the tournament.

He has already praised the 2010 organisers for their efforts in bringing momentum to the tournament ‘ four years before it begins in Johannesburg.

“The South African World Cup will also be part of a big initiative we are taking in Fifa by saying win in Africa with Africa,” said Blatter.

“I am optimistic for Africa. The whole world trusts you, the whole Fifa family ‘ they say yes to South Africa, we trust South Africa.”

But the Australians are clearly waiting in the wings and the big disadvantage for South Africa is that their national team ‘ Bafana Bafana ‘ is struggling to make an impression on the big stage.

Bafana Bafana failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup finals ‘ the first time that the South Africans have failed to join the global fiesta in eight years.

The team has been battered by chaotic administration and the dearth of the emergence of world-class raw talent and only last month they lost to lightweights Botswana in the Cosafa Castle Cup tournament.

The success of the home team is crucial for the World Cup success story and the Germans’ brilliant campaign, which swept them to the semi-finals on their own soil, illuminated the World Cup show.

Fifa have said that they will be monitoring the performance of Bafana Bafana in the next four years with a view to making them a very strong and competitive team.

But the head of the Fifa office in South Africa is, ironically, an Australian.

Michael Palmer, the head of the Fifa office in South Africa, revealed that they were closely watching the progress of Bafana Bafana.

“Fifa has a real interest in making sure that the host nation performs well, particularly on the African continent,” Palmer told BBC Sport.

“It is critical to the World Cup . . . The South African Football Association (Safa) has to do everything they possibly can to make sure they have a competitive team.

“So at higher levels, there will certainly be discussions between Fifa and Safa.

“(This is) not to influence the way the team plays but just to ensure they have all the resources they need to develop a good team over the next four years,” Palmer said.

July 2006
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