Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Becks Gives Hosts Hope for a World Cup Party

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Becks Gives Hosts Hope for a World Cup Party

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL HART

This prestigious friendly kicks off a campaign to bring the tournament to South Africa, which is regarded as the favourite to stage the finals in 2010.

WHILE England's controversial end-of-season trip here will generate around [pounds sterling]3million for the financiallyembarrassed Football Association, that is only a fraction of what is at stake for the South Africans. Tonight's friendly match, watched by senior FIFA executive committee members among a sell-out crowd of 52,000, officially launches South Africa's bid to host the 2010 World Cup.

In the short term England's visit immediately raises South Africa's profile in world football. This is considered vital to the bidding process which is costing the country [pounds sterling]5m.

But in the longer term the rewards for the South Africans are potentially immense. The latest estimates reckon that staging the World Cup would be worth [pounds sterling]3.5billion to the national economy.

It's easy to understand why Nelson Mandela was so keen that England should fulfil a promise to play here for the first time. Equally, it also explains why the locals couldn't stop smiling when England captain David Beckham publicly declared his support for their bid.

Beckham's assertion that a World Cup in South Africa "would be amazing" has led the TV news programmes and dominated front pages in the local papers.

Mandela told Beckham when they met yesterday that it was important that a fledgling democracy like South Africa had a chance to host the world's major events. Eight years ago they successfully staged the Rugby World Cup.

Although the FA's declining influence means that England no longer have a direct vote, the global publicity generated by the visit of Beckham and his team-mates has been gratefully received by the South Africans. FIFA has already stated the finals in 2010 will be staged in Africa.

The bidding nations are Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Nigeria, Lybia and South Africa.

What makes South Africa favourites, apart from the fact that the infrastructure is already largely in place, is their unhappy experience in bidding for the 2006 tournament. …

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