It’s still SA — Blatter

Rumours have been circulating in the media for months that FIFA were looking for an alternative host country because of concerns South Africa had fallen hopelessly behind in their preparations.

But Blatter, in an interview broadcast on Australian television network SBS this week, rubbished the speculation by maintaining that the tournament would remain in South Africa. “They will be ready, no problems they will be ready,” Blatter said. “The plan C and B in my opinion is still South Africa.”

Australia had been suggested as a possible option after local soccer officials announced they would be willing to take over the running of the 2010 tournament, but Blatter said Australia would have to wait their turn.

The 2014 World Cup has already been promised to South America, leaving 2018 as the earliest opportunity Australia could even lodge a bid to stage the tournament. “Australia shall be an option for organising the next World Cup after 2014,” Blatter said. “Australia can also be an option to take one of the big youth competitions of FIFA, for instance the under-20 World Cup.

“This is now something that Australia should be attached to… but definitely not from South Africa,” he said. The stance by the FIFA boss comes at the time when the South African cabinet has said identified untold benefits on the aftermath of the world soccer showcase as well as the hosting of the Soccerex.

“Cabinet would like to reassure all South Africans that preparations are not only on track, but are also at an advanced stage, and that South Africa will be ready to host the first African Fifa World Cup, come rain or shine,” Themba Maseko, the government communications head, released a press statement to the media.

South Africa has also been privileged to host the world’s largest soccer exhibition, Soccerex, for the next three years from next September 2007 until the world cup. Soccerex, the only business-to-business convention for football, includes a football festival, contributing to new ideas and innovation to take the sport into the future.

The exhibition, now in its 10th year and having toured cities around the world, is coming to South Africa’s Gauteng Province next year and brings together football legends, top clubs and top playing nations with an estimated R10 billion worth of business deals set to be negotiated.

It has previously been hosted by London, Paris and Los Angeles and Dubai used as platform where soccer rules are redrawn and changed.Gauteng is South Africa’s economic engine, responsible for over one third of the GDP and the fourth largest economy in Africa.

The province has also hosted major national and international sporting and cultural events including the Rugby World Cup Finals in 1995, the African Cup of Nations Football Finals in 1996, the All Africa Games Athletics in 1999; the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 and the Cricket World Cup Finals in 2003.

More than 3000 professionals and 250 exhibitors from 100 different countries usually attend Soccerex.

The budget allocation of R15 billion for the World Cup efforts, as announced by Trevor Manuel, the finance minister, last month , should inspire “all of us to focus our attention on implementation, implementation, implementation”, said Maseko.

“When the final whistle is blown at the end of the 2010 World Cup Finals, South Africa will never be the same again.” We will have better roads, better sports fields, better public transport, better security for all citizens, better soccer players, and most importantly, a proud and united South Africa, because we would have done it, together.

“A South Africa, in which all the soccer fans who would have attended the World Cup, would want to come back as tourists to experience our fauna and flora.”

All South Africans should do their very best to make sure that every African in the world and every citizen of the world, was made proud of South Africa and Africa, for hosting what should and would be one of the most successful World Cup finals ever. “This is possible,” read Maseko’s statement.

Sepp Blatter’s comments coincided with President Thabo Mbeki’s assurance that South Africa would spare no effort to make sure that everything necessary for a successful Cup happens on time “and preferably ahead of schedule”.

“It is indeed kick-off time for the real work, the real hard work, of making the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup the most successful tournament of all,” Mbeki said adding that this would include the cultivation of a positive public mood in the nation”.

“I’d like to assure the Fifa … that our government and the entirety of our people have dedicated the period up to 2010 to the resounding success of the Fifa Soccer World Cup,” said Mbeki.

Fifa executive committee member Dr Amos Adamu, who stands in for the organisation’s president, Sepp Blatter, told the Southern Times that the South Africa has made “tremendous progress” in developing facilities and mobilising all sectors towards 2010.

November 2006
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