Tuesday, April 17, 2007
The Rush to be Ready
In the latest news, Jordaan has suggested that other countries be involved in a "hosting" capacity. Amidst the platitudes about involving Africa as a whole, and Brazilians perhaps preferring to be based in Portuguese-speaking Mozambique, we come to the real point:
If fans followed their teams to bases in neighbouring countries, it would also ease pressure on accommodation in South Africa, he added.
Jordaan also mentions what is, to my mind, the key problem, more serious even than the delays in stadium construction and infrastructure development. Viz:
Jordaan said measures would be put in place to ensure local fans, especially those from the townships, would not be priced out of the World Cup.
"There will be affordable tickets. There are many people who have supported the game for many years and they must have access to the event. Fifa understands this," he said.
But he said ticketing policies were unlikely to be decided by Fifa before next year and that they would have to take into account the problem of cheap match tickets being resold on the black market for several times their face value.
It is a problem which could have catastrophic consequences if not solved satisfactorily. Football is, of course, the sport of the black majority in South Africa. The Rugby and Cricket World Cups, both held in South Africa in recent times, would not have generated much interest in the townships. But football is another matter, and the potential for social unrest is frightening, if those who feel "ownership" of the sport in South Africa end up being largely excluded.
As for the infrastructure question, this article paints a fairly gloomy picture. Sepp Blatter's recent remarks on the South African preparations have been a diplomatic blend of support and censure; he knows the potential for embarrassment is there. But, as Ms. LaFraniere notes, the South African government is certainly capable of planning on a large scale, and allocating funds quickly.
Let's hope it will be enough.
What I mean is that the World Cup, which is now the biggest sporting event of them all (bigger even than the Olympics in most respects) should only be allocated to countries with both sufficient infrastructure and sufficient political and social stability to ensure a well-run tournament.
Currently there are no such countries in Africa at all.
"Deserving" the World Cup is the wrong way of looking at it, IMHO. "Being suitable" for the WC puts it better.
For mine, as well as suitability, past performances should perhaps count for something. Morocco have a lot of firsts for African WC football. They won what was probably the first African section resembling a serious qualifying system in 1962 and lost only by the one goal in both legs against Spain in a playoff. Following Egypt in 1934 (who only had to beat Palestine in the qualifiers), They were then the first post-WW2 CAF team to make the WC in 1970 after winning an African section with direct qualification, and performed creditably at Mexico '70. In 1986, they were the first CAF team to make it to the second round (although, admittedly, it probably should've been Algeria four years earlier). More recently, they were somewhat unlucky not to make the second round in 1998, being in second place until Norway scored two late goals to defeat Brazil in the last match day of the group.
My question, even with your comment about no suitable African WC hosts in mind: How would a WC in Morocco currently go (putting aside the issue of the summer timing)?
I can't see it working TBH. Certainly, of all the other African nations Morocco would be the most deserving and the most suitable (much better human rights record than either Tunisia or Egypt, for one thing). But, apart from the summer snag you mentioned, there are two other major problems IMO:
(a) Having a major event anywhere in the Arab world at the moment would be risky, even somewhere as relatively moderate, stable and progressive as Morocco (there were some nasty terrorist attacks in Casablanca just a few years ago, for instance). Mainly the fault of the US rather than the Arab world at large, but there you go...
(b) Infrastructure. Rail, internal flights, media services, road, and of course stadia. All of which would have to be modernized at a rate which would put the Japanese of the late 19th century to shame.
Having said that, they might be ready for one within ten years or so; sadly, by then, the South Africa "experience" might have put FIFA off Africa for good.
Where is the potential of social unrest in South Africa if the township people don't get the tickets? Which SA townships are you talking about? Why didn't they riot during the Africa Nations Cup? SA people are more civilised than that and will not riot just because they 'own the sport' and are excluded.
Even if the matches were R10 because of stadium capacity not everyone will be able to watch the matches live and South Africa has a population of more than 47 million people mind you.
This post is an insult to the decent people who live in SA townships and they deserve an apology.
Why on earth would South Africa's own head of operations be making constant reassurances about it if it wasn't an issue, for goodness' sake?
...Why didn't they riot during the Africa Nations Cup?...
Come on. You're comparing interest levels between the ANC and the World Cup?
In any case, "social unrest" doesn't automatically equal "riot". Your word, not mine.
...Even if the matches were R10 because of stadium capacity not everyone will be able to watch the matches live and South Africa has a population of more than 47 million people mind you....
Of course not everyone would be able to get in, but you don't think there would be (quite understandably) a sense of community outrage as a whole if one particular social group with limited means (yet a far more definite connection with the sport than the suburban event snobs who could afford tickets) were priced out of the whole shebang? That's common sense.
...This post is an insult to the decent people who live in SA townships and they deserve an apology....
I've no doubt that the vast majority of people living in the SA townships are perfectly decent people, and my initial post does not imply otherwise.
I've no doubt either that the crime figures such as presented here make concerns such as I've expressed in my post perfectly legitimate.
Like I said, I sincerely hope Jordaan et al. can find a way of circumventing the black market, but it won't be easy. They tried all manner of safeguards in Germany and still you had lots of tickets falling into the wrong hands.
I know. That's the other problem.