It is 10 years since the South Africa Football Association (Safa) first announced its intention to host the sport’s biggest showpiece, the World Cup. Today, the idea, first mooted by former Safa president Solomon ”Stix” Morewa, is less than 740 days from being realised. The Mail & Guardian tracks the history of South Africa’s biggest sporting fantasy.
Molefi Oliphant, who succeeded Morewa at the helm of Safa, remembers how it all began. ”The idea of staging a World Cup in 2006 was adopted at the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
”Morewa told John Lane [CEO of Worldwide Sport] and I about the idea of hosting the World Cup, and we then started discussing the issue. When we came back from the US World Cup the idea was tabled at the Safa executive committee meeting.
”We wrote our first letter to Fifa in September 1994, telling them of our intentions to host the World Cup. In August 1997 we had a workshop at Robben Island where we appointed Irvin Khoza and Danny Jordaan to lead our 2006 bid campaign; we wanted to make our intentions clear to Fifa.”
February 1998: The 2006 bid is officially launched at the Confederation of African Football (Caf) congress in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
March 20 and October 22 1999: South Africa’s 2006 bid committee meets with Charles Dempsey in Auckland, New Zealand. The name was to become well known in the future.
August 9 1999: South Africa’s bid document is submitted to Fifa in Zurich.
July 6 2000: South Africa controversially loses the rights to host the 2006 World Cup to Germany by a single point after New Zealand’s Dempsey unexpectedly abstains from voting, even though his confederation told him to cast his ballot for South Africa.
”This is a tragic day for Africa,” says President Thabo Mbeki. ”The disappointment we’re experiencing today is a setback to our efforts at gaining the recognition Africa needs in the international sporting community. But, next time, we will win.”
Dempsey defends his decision. ”I didn’t do it lightly. I don’t make decisions like that lightly. I was under unsustainable pressure.”
Fifa announces that only African countries will be eligible to bid for the 2010 campaign.
August 4 to 5 2000: The Fifa congress in Zurich adopts the rotation policy, making the 2010 campaign an all-Africa bid.
May 21 2003: The 2010 bid campaign is launched in Durban ahead of an international friendly between Bafana Bafana and England the next day. Jacob Zuma, then-deputy president of the republic, announces government support for the bid.
September 26 2003: The 2010 bid book is handed to Zuma.
October 30 to November 5 2003: A Fifa inspection team comprising Belgian Football Association president Jan Peeters, Pertti Alaja (Finland), Jacques Bouillon (France), Michel Sablon (Belgium) and Harold Mayne-Nicholls (Chile) inspects the country’s facilities.
January 31 2004: The Fifa committee begins evaluating the bids after inspection visits.
May 4 2004: The Fifa inspection team gives South Africa the highest grading of the five countries [Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya] bidding to host the 2010 World Cup.
In a report posted on the Fifa website, the inspection team concludes that South Africa has the potential to organise an ”excellent” World Cup — compared with Egypt and Morocco’s potential to organise a ”very good” World Cup. Tunisia is said to have the potential to organise a ”good” World Cup while Libya would ”face great difficulties in organising a World Cup to the standards required”.
May 14 2004: The South African 2010 bid committee and the other four bidding nations make their final presentations to the Fifa executive committee in Zurich, Switzerland.
May 15 2004: The South African bid delegation, led by former president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, arrives in Zurich. Millions of South Africans wait anxiously for the announcement of the country to host the first-ever World Cup to be staged on African soil.
When Fifa president Sepp Blatter opens a white envelope and announces ”the 2010 Fifa World Cup will be organised in South Africa” ,celebrations start all over the country. South Africa beat Morocco 14-10 in the final vote.
”I feel like a young man of 15,” says 85-year-old Mandela.
”It was a moment I will never forget for the rest of my life, along with the release from prison of Nelson Mandela,” says Danny Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 local organising committee (LOC). ”It was a release of emotions, joy and pain, of years of sitting at airports, on the road, on taxis and trains, going to houses and knocking on the doors of members of the Fifa executive committee.”
October 3 2006: Irvin Khoza, chairperson of the 2010 LOC, announces that construction work on 2010 stadiums is set to begin in January 2007.
July 13 2006: MTN signs a global deal to become the first African Fifa World Cup sponsor until 2010.
June 19 2007: ”Only God will stop South Africa from hosting the 2010 World Cup,” says Blatter, responding to international media reports that the 2010 World Cup will be staged elsewhere because South Africa is not ready to host the event.
September 14 2007: The day marked the beginning of the 1 000-day countdown before the World Cup kicks off, with host cities across the country staging celebratory events.
November 25 2007: The 2010 World Cup preliminary draw is held in Durban. The official poster depicting the African continent as a human figure heading a ball is unveiled.
March 5 2008: The LOC and Fifa announce that officials from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality have a month to convince them that the Port Elizabeth Stadium will be ready in time for 2009 Confederations Cup or be left out of the competition.
May 6 2008: The LOC and Fifa are convinced that the Port Elizabeth stadium will be ready to host the Confederations Cup.
May 15 2008: Thanksgiving ceremonies are held across the country in honour of the anniversary of the 2004 announcement that South Africa would host the World Cup.
May 29-30 2008: The LOC updates Fifa on the status of preparations for the World Cup at the 58th Fifa congress, held in Sydney, Australia.