Sunday, December 20, 2009

South Africa 2010 - A World Cup too far?

The omens for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa are not good, despite FIFA president Sepp Blatter continually talking up the forthcoming event.

Critics of the decision to grant the World Cup to South Africa are thick on the ground and have gathered plenty of evidence to back their arguments.

They cite evidence such as the 50 murders that occur each day in South Africa, and the 14,000 road deaths each year - half of which involve a vehicle hitting a pedestrian - to argue that the country is unsafe for visitors, let alone locals.

Public transport is a mess and travelling between World Cup venues may prove a harrowing experience.

Three well-respected journalist have recently filed reports on their experiences in South Africa, and these make troublesome reading.

The journalists were Keir Radnedge of World Soccer, and Gabriele Marcotti and Owen Slot of The Times.

Radnedge was horrified by the level of crime in South Africa and said he believed the World Cup organisers cared little for what happened to people outside the actual stadiums.

Apparently, they guarantee spectators’ safety inside the stadiums, but when you leave, you’re on your own.

There have been some shocking examples of violence in the past couple of years which can hardly engender confidence in visitors.

In late 2007, Pieter Burgstaller, who was once a goalkeeper with Austrian club SV Salzburg and an acquaintance of Franz Beckenbauer, was shot dead on a golf course in Durban.

He was visiting South Africa for a Soccerex Conference and was murdered for his mobile phone, passport and wallet.

Beckenbauer later acknowledged that people won’t be as free to move about as at other World Cup tournaments in the past.

On January 4 this year, a member of the 2010 World Cup Organising Committee, 44-year-old Jimmy Mohlala, was shot dead at his home in Nelspruit.

He was a former member of the South African FA and was believed to have been killed as he was about to expose alleged corruption surrounding the building of a local stadium for the World Cup.

Marcotti, of The Times, undertook the four-hour drive at night from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg, two of the World Cup venues.

The two-lane road was wholly unlit and the journey was a nightmare.

Marcotti said that people are advised not to travel by train or bus, so what is one to do?

Accommodation may also be a problem for visitors and there has been some talk of people staying in Zimbabwe, which is only a couple of hundred kilometres away.

But, given the situation in that country, would you risk it?

There have been plans to build a tent city on school grounds at Polokwane capable of accommodating 2,000 people, but even Blatter has said this is unfeasible because of the cold South African winters.

The South African government has recruited 35,000 extra police officers for the World Cup, while another 5,000 railway police are also to be recruited.

This means that 187,000 police will be on duty when the World Cup kicks off.

They will be needed in a country that in 2005/2006 recorded 18,528 homicides, 54,926 rapes and 119,726 aggravated robberies. And, these are only the recorded figures.

I gained accreditation as a journalist for the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

I don’t think I’ll be travelling to the World Cup in South Africa, even if I were given free tickets.

It’s a real pity because the Socceroos will be there.

They must be careful, too, as the Brazilian and Egyptian teams at this year’s Confederations Cup tournament in South Africa can testify.

Both squads were victims of hotel robberies.

The Confederations Cup is, of course, conducted in the country that will host the World Cup a year before the tournament in order to test the country’s readiness for the big event.

There was plenty of other cause for concern, too, as stadiums were far from full and the government gave away many free tickets to the games in an endeavour to show that there were good crowds.

In regard to personal safety, Germany may have stumbled upon a solution.

No, they are not flying in to the country for matches and then flying out again before returning for their next match.

It has been reported that the German players will all wear body armour when outside their hotel.

Unfortunately, this won’t protect their limbs, particularly their legs, which are, of course, the most important parts of their anatomy.


eightball said...

there is a little island in the southern hemisphere known for its beautiful culture, beaches and girls with spectacular stadiums ready for such a spectacle

Brian Roberts said...

Perhaps John Milton had a vision of the future when he wrote " Paradise Lost "

Unknown said...

Brazil won't be any safer

Anonymous said...

Sanction this man for bringing the game into disrepute.

There is a world outside of Tasmania peoples, some of us who are as lucky as myself cannot wait to arrive in South Africa.


Realist said...

Anonymous?Dribble? Whoever you are, have you been to South Africa before?
Let us know what you thought when (or should that be if?) you get back.

Anonymous said...

Walter I hope you are not going to stay away from the World Cup because you are scared. Before travelling to Australia's world cup qualifyer in Tashkent there were some people saying that it was too dangerous. When we got there we were greeted by friendly locals, great looking girls and a very interesting country. I expect this to be the case in South Africa.

If the World Cup was limited to 'safe' countries it wouldn't be such a fantastic competition. See you on the Veld

Walter said...

Hi Anonymous

I'm sure the journalists will be safe.

I really do think South Africa is the most dangerous place that a World Cup has been held in (50 murders a day) and I fear for supporters outside the stadiums. Let's hope things aren't as dire as have been predicted by many sections of the media. Perhaps they're just scaremongering, but I doubt it as the three I mentioned are reputable.

I haven't got accreditation this time and haven't sought it. It'll be the TV for me.

Good luck, and enjoy it!