/ 7 May 2008

Bafana under Fifa spotlight

Bafana Bafana’s new coach, Joel Santana, will have to earn his huge salary when he arrives in Johannesburg next week to take over from fellow Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira.

Reputed to be earning R1,5-million per month for his 30-month contract, the Brazilian was warned by world football governing body Fifa that it expected Bafana to shine at both the Confederations Cup next year and the 2010 World Cup finals.

In a round-table meeting with local journalists on Wednesday, Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke stressed that as host nation of both events, Fifa expected Bafana to get to at least the second phase of both tournaments.

Valcke was sad about the departure of the well-respected Parreira, who was forced to resign due to the ill health of his wife last month. Parreira hand-picked Santana as his successor.

Valcke said he hoped Santana would continue the work Parreira started back in February last year in rebuilding Bafana Bafana into a competitive side.

Said Valcke: ”We would like to see the host nation of major events such as the Confederations Cup and World Cup get to at least the quarterfinals or semifinals. That would help keep the interest going in the host country.

”It would not be good if Bafana were knocked out in the early rounds of either the Confederations Cup or World Cup. That is why we hope the new coach [Santana] will succeed with Bafana and make sure South Africa produces a competitive host team for the events.”

The draw for the Confederations Cup, which features eight leading countries, will be held in Johannesburg on November 22.

World champions Italy, Brazil, Egypt, Iraq, the United States plus the new Euro 2008 and Oceania champions, as well as Bafana will contest the Confederations Cup, which kicks off next July and will be a test of the country’s ability to host the 2010 showpiece.

Valcke also said he was supremely confident South Africa would host a ”great” World Cup.

He said Fifa was not worried about negative reports from Europe, especially Britain.

He said: ”There is nothing we can do about the negative reports. I do not know where they come from. We will prove all the doubters wrong.

”Believe me, this World Cup will be a huge success. All our reputations are on the line. We are happy with the way things are running.”

He said transport would not be a problem.

”I am confident all the stadiums will be ready on time, plus all the roads leading to and from the stadiums — as well as the transport needed.”

Valcke also revealed that he had met new African National Congress president Jacob Zuma in Zurich recently.

Fifa had been assured by Zuma that when a new national president is elected there would be continuity in the 2010 local organising committee (LOC) headed by chairperson Irvin Khoza and CEO Danny Jordaan.

Said Valcke: ”Zuma assured us he would maintain the continuity in the LOC if he should became South African president. It would be in the interest of everyone if that status quo remains to run the World Cup.” — Sapa