And the Winner Is ... in Africa, Football Is a Religion, but for 80 Years Scepticism Has Kept the World's Premier Sports Event, the World Cup, off Africa's Turf. This Time It Is a Given. FIFA Has Decided to Award the 2010 World Cup to Africa, but Where in Africa? We Shall Know by 15 May. Pusch Commey Reports
Commey, Pusch, New African
The knives are out and gleaming. So are the cheque books. The announcement of the winner will be made on 15 May. Vying for the hosting rights are South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.
The closest any of them have come to hosting the World Cup is South Africa which was beaten by just one vote (11-12) by Germany for World Cup 2006, when Charles Dempsey of Oceania controversially abstained from voting for South Africa as directed by his federation, thereby wreaking a nation, and Africa's hopes.
And when Africa's Asian friends in solidarity had all but assured them of support, they did a side jump at the last minute, opting to do deals with a more lucrative Germany.
"How can FIFA call itself a family when it starves most of its children while overfeeding a few," asked a crestfallen South African official after the debacle.
In a way, that sorry end to the South African bid has turned out to be a blessing. FIFA, out of guilt, agreed to a rotational system that will see each continent host the World Cup in turn. As a palliative, Africa was to be the first beneficiary in 2010. The next turn would be in 2030.
But in an apparent rethink, the football powers in Europe have refused to commit themselves to the deal. And so the power politics goes on unabated.
The likelihood is that after 2010, the next time Africa sniffs the right to host the World Cup, it will be many decades away. Certainly not in our time.
After the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930, it would be 80 years before Africa's first. Whichever African country wins on 15 May, it will probably have to wait at least 100 years for another bite.
Of the five contestants, South Africa looks the strongest on paper. It has vast experience in hosting international events such us the Rugby World Cup 1995, the African Cup of Nations 1996, the All African Games 1999, and the Cricket World Cup in 2003. All in a space of 10 years! It has 80% of the stadiums already in place for a world cup event.
Besides, South Africa has demonstrated its capacity to host any global event. It has successfully hosted huge international events like the World Aids Conference 2000, the UN World Conference against Racism 2001, the African Union Summit 2002 and the World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002 (this one attracted over 60,000 delegates and heads of governments from all over the world).
In addition, South Africa has first class air, road and rail network, a sophisticated telecoms infrastructure and a first class tourist and accommodation industry.
South Africa has already secured the backing of soccer greats like David Beckham, Abedi Pele, George Weah, Roger Milla and Franz Beckenbauer. Its greatest asset, Nelson Mandela, has vigorously pitched for his country. Part of its bid shows a video transmission in which Mandela with a smiling Beckham by his side, says the hosting of the World Cup "is important in a country where democracy is only burgeoning to be able to seize such an opportunity. If you give us your support, others will follow."
Of the five bidders, Morocco has been the most tenacious. With three failed attempts to host the World Cup in 1990, 1994 and 2006, Morocco is now going all out for 2010.
As the most experienced bidder, Morocco definitely has great insight into what it takes to clinch the deal. Its main attraction is in geography. Its proximity to Europe will ensure easy access for the bulk of football fans likely to travel to the World Cup.
Three of its stadiums are ready (in Fes, Rabat and Casablanca) and three more are under construction (Marrakech for the opening ceremony, Tangiers and Agadir). Another three depend on the outcome of the vote (El Jadida, Meknes and the Casablanca Grand Stade, which would host the final). …