World Cup boost for South Africa

South Africa’s position as frontrunner to host the 2010 World Cup was confirmed on Tuesday after the publication of Fifa’s inspection report into the five African nations vying to host the competition.

World football’s governing body concluded that South Africa has the potential to organise ”an excellent” World Cup.

It praised the country’s overall infrastructure, and suggested granting the World Cup to South Africa would help the unification progress that has been in place since the end of apartheid more than a decade ago.

Chief executive officer of the South African bid company, Danny Jordaan, told the Mail & Guardian Online on Wednesday that SA had ”clearly” received the most favourable report and that he hoped it was some indication that the country would get the go-ahead to host the tournament.

”We have the merit and now it is just the political process of collecting 13 votes.”

Jordaan said he had been ”on the road” running SA’s bid company since 1997, which he said in itself must be some kind of world record.

”I’d be very happy to be out of a job,” he said.

The boost for South Africa comes just a fortnight before the final vote to determine the 2010 hosts is taken by Fifa’s executive committee in Zurich on May 15 and at a time when the country’s dream of hosting the first World Cup in Africa is in danger of being dashed by rival bidders Morocco.

Over recent months representatives from the Morocco bid have been pushing their case with stunning success.

Fifa’s inspection committee, headed by Belgian Jan Peeters, described the way Morocco has promoted its bid as excellent, and the presentation of its budget as outstanding.

But on the flipside Fifa said it is concerned that work has not begun on three stadiums that Morocco said four years ago were already under construction.

”We do have some concern that three stadiums presented to the 2006 inspection group in February 2000 as under construction have not been realised at all,” the report said.

Fifa concluded, however, that Morocco has ”the potential to organise a very good World Cup”.

The inspection group appeared to position Egypt ahead of Morocco.

It pointed to Egypt’s wealth of history, culture and tourism, and concluded that despite the lack of appropriate stadia to host an event of this size Egypt is ”capable of organising a very good World Cup”.

The report appeared to represent the end of the road for the final two contenders, Tunisia and Libya, who are presenting a joint bid.

While Tunisia, which hosted and won the African Nations Cup in February, has the potential to put on ”a good” World Cup if it went it alone, Libya will face ”great difficulties” meeting the required standards, Fifa said.

It highlighted Libya’s lack of experience in hosting international sporting events, insufficient preparation time and lack of accommodation as key drawbacks in their bid.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter ruled out Libya and Tunisia’s joint bid.

After seeing his inspectors’ assessment he commented: ”The report demonstrates that at least three of the candidates are potentially capable of organising a successful Fifa World Cup single-handedly.

”The prospect of two countries co-hosting the 2010 World Cup is therefore out of the question.”

While South Africa is a definite favourite, it more than anyone knows that anything can happen between now and the announcement of the winner.

South Africa went into the last vote for the 2006 World Cup as frontrunner only to be stunned and angered when it lost out to Germany by a single vote.

And last month Blatter admitted it would be no shoe-in for South Africa.

”If you are listening around the world then you can imagine that it will be possibly as close as it was in 2000 … for the decision of 2006,” said the Fifa boss.

After its defeat to Germany in 2000, South Africa alleged the result had been fixed and former Fifa executive board member Charlie Dempsey of New Zealand, who abstained and allowed Germany its one-vote victory, was hounded for months after the decision.

If Dempsey had voted the result would have been tied and Blatter, as president, would have had the casting vote.

Blatter feared he could be forced to use his casting vote next month.

”In the case of a tied vote the president has to cast the vote. I hope I will not be in that position,” he said.

All five candidates will have a final chance to present their cases the day before the final vote is held. — Sapa-AFP

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