South Africa – Ready or Not?


Yesterday marked the six week mark before the start of the 19th world cup – the first world cup to be hosted in Africa.

Though FIFA, publicly, are showing 100% support for the tournament, one can’t help but wonder if, behind closed doors, they are regretting their decision to have South Africa host the cup. South Africa, you will recall in 2000, controversially lost the vote for the 2006 cup to Germany prompting Sepp Blatter to install a system of rotation amongst the confederations. Like so many Blatter initiatives this system was short lived and suited his personal agenda. With 2002 already scheduled for Asia and 2006 for Germany, Blatter decided 2010 would be Africa’s turn and South Africa outpolled Morocco for the honour.

But since being awarded the tournament there seems to have been nothing but problems for the host nation.

Like many hosts there was a necessity to upgrade some stadiums and build completely new others. And it is this rebuilding which has caused major head aches. Late last year there was a construction strike and it was made public that the majority of workers were on a monthly wage of just 2500 Rand. That’s about $NZ450…. Scandalous given the amount of money that the world cup is expected to generate. It seems that the stadiums are now complete, but in some cases there are severe problems with the playing surface, none more so than at Nelspruit, the venue of New Zealands match with the current world champions Italy.  The pitch in Nelspruit was re-laid again in Mid March, less than three months before the start of the tournament. It continues to be a problem. Fortunately the All Whites match is the second of just four scheduled for Nelspruit and hopefully won’t be too damaged before we play.

Further negative publicity arose surrounding the eviction of many homeless from the cities and into specially built shanty towns. The most infamous of these is in Blikkiesdorp, Cape Town, where it is rumoured that as many as 15,000 are living in an area designed for 1,500 families. The “accommodation” is little more than corrugated iron huts, which residents say are worse than townships created by the white government during apartheids reign. Similarly, in Pretoria – the administrative capital – thousands are living in squalor whilst the government builds new stadiums. In the suburb of Mamelodi East as many as 6,000 live in shacks without electricity or running water. No prizes for guessing which race these South Africans are…… There have been threats that there will be heavy protests and chaos during the world cup, to highlight to the world the problems of South Africa today.

 

Unlike previous world cup hosts, South Africa doesn’t have the transport infrastructure to cope with an influx of tourists. The main centre for the cup is Johannesburg which hosts 15 matches whilst 12 further matches are being played in nearby Pretoria & Rustenburg.  Yet travel between the three cities is very difficult. Pretoria is just 40 minutes away but according to many tourist websites travellers are advised not to use local trains and taxis are often unroadworthy and dangerous. To this end the City of Johannesburg promised a new train system linking the two cities – the Gautrain. Typically, whilst this seems a great idea, it won’t be complete until 2011. Parts of it are complete but not the most important parts…those which can transport fans to matches. The only way to be sure of getting from one city to another is to hire a car.

And of course South Africa is famous for its level of crime….levels which it seems have had an impact on the volume of tourists making their way to the country for the tournament. Despite FIFA adding a further sales phase and reducing ticket prices for locals, as many as 27 of the 64 matches still have tickets available for sale, some embarrassingly so. If you are still considering attending New Zealands second world cup, you won’t have a problem getting tickets to our matches I can assure you!

At the end of the day though we are sure to witness a great tournament. It promises to be the most open world cup in many years, and there’s nothing quite like coffee & toast at 4 in the morning watching a quality game of football, is there? We may witness a great football tournament but the chances are that it won’t be running too smoothly outside the stadiums

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