Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

How Madiba was strong-armed in World Cup bid

A new book, Foul, by British journalist Andrew Jennings, exposes the corruption and power plays at world football’s governing body, Fifa. Jennings’s previous investigation into sport, The Lords of the Rings, led to a radical shake-up of the International Olympic Committee. Among other things, Foul details the behind-the-scenes shenanigans in the awarding of the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

In the following excerpt, Jennings explains how Fifa — and in particular its vice-president Jack Warner — relentlessly strong-armed both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu to travel the world in search of the votes that would see South Africa’s 2010 bid succeed:

Ten of Fifa’s committee attended the inauguration of President Thabo Mbeki’s second term of office in late April (2004). Jack (Warner) and his party got better seats than some world leaders and they even wangled a tour of Mbeki’s private residence. There’s a happy snap of the occasion: Warner, gold bangles jangling, pumps Mbeki’s hand, reluctant to let go. You can almost read the thought bubble above a grinning Mbeki’s head. ”I can just about keep smiling if this guy brings us the World Cup.”

Jack spent a night in the Presidential Suite that had been Mandela’s. Sleeping in Mandela’s bed! What more did the South Africans have to do? Much more. Warner demanded an hour of Mandela’s time and promptly invited him and fellow Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu to visit Trinidad. ”Just as I was received here, he can expect a most hearty welcome by the people of Trinidad & Tobago,” Warner told a reporter.

Did Jack now presume to be Mandela’s equal? Mandela was 85 years old and his doctors wanted him to cut back on his international travelling. Desmond Tutu (72) was having treatment for cancer. If Mandela and Tutu really, really wanted South Africa to host the World Cup, Jack’s invitation was one they literally could not refuse …

”It’s a pity that Nelson Mandela has got caught up in something like this,” said Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning. ”This visit is being unnecessarily politicised.” Manning leads the PNM party that routed Jack Warner’s friends in the UNC government. Now Jack had found a headline-grabbing way to take the sweetest of revenges.

Who would greet superstar Mandela and share the blaze of flash bulbs when his plane touched down in Trinidad? Jack Warner. Who would decide Mandela’s itinerary? Jack Warner. Who would draw up the lists of people whose hands Mandela must shake if he wanted the World Cup? Jack Warner. That’s what Jack wanted but Trinidad’s government wasn’t having it; a former state president must be greeted at the airport by the prime minister.

”No,” said one of Warner’s sidekicks. ”He is our guest. We are not budging on Mr Warner greeting Mr Mandela, after which, he can be introduced to whoever else is at the airport.” Who would drive Mandela into Port of Spain? ”Manning can come to the airport, but we will take Mandela,” added Warner’s man.

Warner demanded that Mandela address both houses of Parliament, discovering later that only heads of state had this privilege. ”The government represents the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, I am not aware that the Republic of Concacaf [the organisation that controls football in North and Central America and the Caribbean] exists,” snorted Manning.

Warner had to back down when the South African government tip-toed in saying that Mandela was making an official, not a private visit. Mandela was helped out of his chair at his home in Johannesburg and handed his walking stick. He went out to do battle again for his beloved country. He arrived late at night at Piarco airport and Manning, looking overawed, was first to greet him. Then came Warner pumping Mandela’s hand and beaming gleefully as the photographers snapped away. With the support of a carved, wooden stick Mandela made his way down the red carpet. Then he was swept off to his bed.

Archbishop Tutu had arrived earlier to an ecstatic welcome from local ministers and congregations. The next day Warner planned to take Mandela to lunch at the swanky Trinidad Country Club. Local activists who had campaigned on the streets against apartheid in past years protested that the club had historically been a white enclave that barred blacks and Jack had to back down.

Sepp Blatter wanted his pound of Mandela flesh. He rushed to Trinidad and elbowed Jack out of the way to take centre spot the day after Mandela’s arrival. Blatter pumped the old man’s hand when he arrived at the Oval, the largest cricket ground in the West Indies, to be publicly exhibited. Blatter had announced a few months earlier that they had so much in common ”such as our work for the good of the world’s young people, for example”. Another Fifa man putting himself on a pedestal with Mandela. Was there room for them all?

In high spirits up on the stage with him were Warner and (United States soccer chief) Chuck Blazer and their hangers-on. Frail Nelson Mandela was helped by an aide up on to the stage. He told the huge crowd that he had defied his doctor’s orders to end all international travel to come to Trinidad & Tobago. ”This is my last trip abroad — I am here to plead,” he said. After 15 minutes he had to leave to rest in his hotel room.

Jack snubbed the government’s offer of a free state reception where ordinary Trinidadians might catch a glimpse of Mandela and instead took him off to the Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence and charged £100 a plate to one thousand people. Mandela made his speech sitting down and had to stop after seven minutes.

Warner had insisted that once his two elderly captives had been shown off in Trinidad, they must fly onwards to the island of Grenada. If they really, really wanted his vote and the two others he could deliver, they must plead their case yet again, and this time in front of Jack’s Concacaf congress.

Two of the world’s most-loved figures, symbols of goodness and heroic struggle, would have to shake hands with Horace Burrell and Chet Greene and the rest of Warner’s lieutenants.

Then came the sad news that Mandela’s first wife, Evelyn, had died. Mandela had to go home for the funeral. Desmond Tutu travelled alone to Grenada for further exhibition in Warner’s circus.

Bribes to Fifa officials were usually a taboo subject but in the week before the vote, the South Africans, probably acting on their own secret intelligence, spoke out. ”If we have to choose between corrupting people and losing, let’s just lose,” said Essop Pahad, one of Mbeki’s ministers. ”We’re not going to give any money to anyone under the table.”

Zurich, 14 May 2004. President Mbeki arrived with former president and Nobel laureate FW de Klerk at the Dolder Grand Hotel soon after seven in the morning, the day before the decision. Mandela followed shortly after. They must have been tired, travelling all night, but as they checked in Warner and Blazer were on their heels in the lobby.

Warner said he needed another round of pleading because, ”Unfortunately, Concacaf is still undecided.” Adoring his place in the spotlight, Warner added, ”It’s an historic occasion for me. In some ways it will decide the future of one country.” He got another hour’s face time with Mandela.

Alan Rothenberg (organiser of the 1994 World Cup in the US and champion of Morocco’s bid) couldn’t resist striking one last blow for Morocco, and he didn’t care who it hurt. ”Everyone on the executive committee knows who Mandela is and what he has said and done and achieved,” he told reporters. ”We all appreciate him and his place in history, but that is it — Mandela is not a man of the future. He is a man of history.”

So was Alan’s client’s bid. Morocco went down 10-14 to the South Africans on the first round. South Africa had won the World Cup of 2010. And Blatter had emerged from two consecutive battles to host the tournament stronger than ever.

Extracted from FOUL!: The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals, by Andrew Jennings, published by HarperSport. Â

Vote for an informed choice

We’re dropping the paywall this week so that everyone can access all our stories for free, and get the information they need in the run up to the local government elections. For the latest updates and political analysis, sign up to our daily elections newsletter.

If our coverage helps inform your decision, cast your vote for an informed public and join our subscriber community. Right now, a full year’s access is just R510, half the usual cost. Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Eskom to take ‘extraordinary measures’ to avoid load-shedding for elections

Stage four load-shedding rolled out to ensure the polls on Monday 1 November are energy secure

Khaya Koko: John Steenhuisen, please take a knee

The Democratic Alliance leader rebuking cricketer Quinton de Kock would be this election season’s greatest triumph

Paddy Harper: Will the Covid-19 cigarette ban come back to...

Flashbacks of nicotine deprivation and not poor service delivery may see a run on the polls on Monday

Eskom resorts to stage four load-shedding

Stage-four outages will continue until Friday after the loss of two units during the night, and three in total at Medupi, Kusile and Matla power plants tripping

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…