2010 World Cup: It’s our turn!

That was said by one Edward Kinglake in The Australian at Home. I know you are wating to hear what I am going to say next. In other words, why have I quoted that bit and where it is all leading to.

No problem. I have no problem with an Australian, or every Australian, or indeed any other person anywhere in the world for that matter, worshipping the goddess of sport.

Or, come to think of it, any goddess. Or god of their choice. Honestly. I have no problem at all.

I also have no problem at all with Australia, or indeed any other country in the world for that matter, treating itself to one or many holidays. No problem at all.

Indeed, why should I? Or, while we are at it, you, for that matter? There is no reason. Good. I am glad we agree.

What I have a problem with is a person, any person, dictating that they and only they have a right to something. Anything. Or any nation, for that matter, doing the same. That I have a problem with and that I have a big problem with. A huge problem, I can tell you here and now, my friends.

Where is all this coming from? Ah, so I have anticipated your question? Good. I will proceed to answer it.

I was reading a newspaper report midweek. Yes, please go on, Mr Banda. Oh, yes, I was reading a newspaper report midweek which said that there is yet another concerted campaign underway in Australia to divert the hosting of the 2010 Fifa World Cup soccer tournament from South Africa to Down Under.

It is said that the Australian campaign is two pronged: a number of officials in that country are publicly expressing doubt about South Africa’s ability to host the global soccer showcase. Having ploughed this doubt, they are then sowing seeds of their ability and readiness to substitute South Africa. What treachery!

While Australia is reported to be planning a bid to host the 2018 edition of the soccer extravaganza, a person of the stature of no less than the head of the sport’s governing body in that country is quoted as saying: “There’s all sorts of question marks about infrastructure or requirements in South Africa. Australia doesn’t have those problems.”

How, now, Mr John O’Neill. The last time out it was one Dempsey from that part of the world, I think. He did what he did and Africa lost the opportunity to host 2006. Justice and fair play then staged a come-from-behind act and we got 2010. Now this!

The Fifa World Cup Soccer tournament is the world’s biggest single-sport event. Having it on the continent in 2010 is a life-time opportunity, and having it so near us is even more so. We cannot let this opportunity pass just like that. Comrades, we cannot!

There were 32 national teams competing in Japan and Korea in 2002, there were 32 in Germany last year and 32 in South Africa in 2010. The tournament features 64 matches, 10 more than the cricket showcase.

About 40 percent more tourists than the average annual number are expected in South Africa for the 2010 Fifa World Cup soccer tournament.

With South Africa 2010 slated to run from the 11th of June to the 11th of July, and each tourist expected to spend about 25 thousand rands, we have the time and they have the money, comrades.

Just as with the ICC Cricket World Cup tournament in 2003, 2010 presents a huge publicity and marketing opportunity for Zimbabwe and other southern African countries. Both of these activities generate business.

Over and above generating traffic for Olympic Airways, the Athens hospitality industry and allied concerns, hosting the 2004 Olympic Games boosted the overseas image of Greece. The same can and should happen for us down here.

Consider this: soccer is played on each of the five continents of the world. In other words, it is played virtually everywhere on earth. The FIFA Soccer World Cup is the most viewed single-sport event in the world. During the 2002 edition, a cumulative television audience ‘ when viewers are counted each time they watch ‘ of 28,8 billion viewers followed the action.

So the eyes of the world will be on South Africa, and by association the rest of the continent. We are therefore talking about a huge world viewership for our products and services.

Historically, teams have set up camp outside the host venue for acclimatisation and the warm-up matches so essential for final tune-ups and assessing final formations under “examination conditions” as it were.

In any case, the host will be putting the finishing touches to the match venues and those so finished are then delivered to Fifa as clean venues ready for the tournament proper.

Just as in 2004, the England cricket team conducted its final preparations in Namibia en route to its tour of Zimbabwe, possibilities abound of some teams choosing to camp in countries around South Africa, far from the prying eyes of fellow competitors abundant in the host country but near enough to benefit in terms of familiarising with the weather, food, culture and other vicissitudes of the locale.

With every team in the World Cup is a huge media contingent. Possibilities abound too of officials, family members of players, supporters and other hangers-on making a trip, during an off-day or two, to Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Then there are the other usual beneficiaries of such international gatherings: the curio vendors, tourist guides, security agents and other informal sectors. Need I say more?

In the same way that the right to host the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 tournament was won by South Africa but pool matches were also played in Zimbabwe and Kenya, the legacy of the Soccer World Cup cannot, should not and will not be confined to South Africa.

It is the nature of our people that we share the bad times. Thus we also share the good times. Thus then currency of that African National Congress slogan: “Any injury to one is an injury to all.”

Let no one out there have a holiday that has been won by one of us and so is ours.

December 2006
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