World Cup shows govt can do it
The pessimism that bordered on fierce criticism of the ability of South Africa to successfully host the World Cup has rightfully evaporated after a near-faultless three weeks.
There may be a few days before the July 11 final, but the country, and Africa, appear to have done enough to convince detractors that the world’s biggest sporting event is in safe hands. Save for the snarling transport problems at stadiums such as Soccer City and Rustenburg’s Royal Bafokeng and Fifa’s—occasionally comic—heavy-handedness, South Africa has put on a world-class event.
South Africa’s clean slate with regard to criminal acts perpetrated against foreign visitors was blighted this week when an American tourist was injured during an armed robbery. But this was the first incident of its kind since Bafana Bafana kicked off the tournament against Mexico on June 11.
Since then South Africans, and all the football fans we have embraced, have been caught up in a rollercoaster of emotions because of the drama unfolding on the pitch. There has been a kindred sense of a shared humanity, articulated in our tears and laughter, with every goal and every result.
For creating this enabling environment, government must be congratulated. It has ploughed billions into building magnificent stadiums and acted expeditiously when asked to—especially by Fifa. It has stepped in (at taxpayers’ cost) to secure stadiums during security-guards strikes, for example.
When asked to—usually by Fifa, more recently, and over the past six years—the South African government has acted at optimum level and proved it can be highly responsive and functional. But there are others—victims of the rampant crime in townships and suburbs, shack dwellers living in abject squalor, young mothers whose babies die in their arms because of poor medical services, and the next generation, whose dreams will never be realised because of an expensive yet dysfunctional education system—who have been asking of government for several years now.
These are people who have a greater claim to government’s attention because it is their power that elected representatives hold in trust for each five-year term served. A people who, daily, are being short-changed by the emergence of another tenderpreneur or corruption in government. Football may be the opiate of the masses, but the World Cup’s hallucinogenic grip on South Africans is momentary. Daily hunger isn’t forgotten during a football match, and neither is the fruitlessness of job-hunting. When Fifa president Sepp Blatter and his entourage leave these shores, South Africans will still be here.
Solid Safa admin needed
The South African flags are still proudly flying on most of our vehicles and public places and the stadiums are packed for the last few final matches, but the fan parks are empty and the dust is finally settling as far as South African football is concerned.
We all sobered up when we made history by becoming the first World Cup host to be knocked out in the first round. Although we were starting to believe our own hype, we were never really contenders, coming in at ranking 83 as the second-lowest rank outside of North Korea who were ranked 105 and were similarly humiliated by the top nations.
The mandarins who run our football have shown some urgency in deciding to appoint a replacement for Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira. They have decided to settle for a local coach, Pitso Mosimane, who has been an understudy to Parreira for the past four years. Africa has long battled with the debate about whether you appoint an experienced coach with an international pedigree or you choose a home-brewed one with an understanding of the local football conditions and mentality. We have settled for local flavour in Mosimane, and the South African Football Association (Safa) needs to give him the same support they gave Parreira, who was not only well-paid but dictated the local premiership calendar in order to accommodate his needs as a national coach.
Mosimane will hopefully also work under conditions that allow him to encourage development and to groom youngsters. In other words, we hope that after the World Cup we do not resume the internal rivalries and turf-fighting that have taken our eyes off the interests of football.
Last week LOC CEO Danny Jordaan, out of the blue, informed us that the conflict between him and LOC chairperson Irvin Khoza is far from over. In a rant, Jordaan said he knew that Khoza was waging a war against him, which is supposed to intensify after the World Cup.
We sincerely hope that that is not the direction in which our football is headed. As the Nigerian experience has shown, irrespective of how talented your players may be, there is a causal link between sound, stable administration of football and the performance of your national team.