/ 22 June 2009

Fifa: SA is ready for the World Cup

The world has now seen that South Africa is ready to stage the 2010 World Cup finals, which kick off on June 11 next year, world football governing body Fifa said on Monday.

On a scale of one to 10, South Africa’s readiness for the 2010 showpiece, following the current successful staging of the Confederations Cup, rates an eight on Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke’s scale.

Speaking at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Monday, Valcke said while problems had arisen during the Confederations Cup, which is currently under way, he was pleased with the event’s overall organisation — a dry run for the 2010 finals.

”The best ambassadors for South Africa and 2010 are the teams, players and officials who participated in the Confederations Cup.

”The organisation from the LOC [local organising committee] has been really top class. What is more pleasing is the players are returning to their countries with a good opinion of South Africa, the people, fans, stadiums, hotels and training facilities.

”That is the best advert we could hope for.”

Valcke said the LOC had encountered a last-minute strike bid by volunteers at Ellis Park last week, which was swiftly sorted out.

”Security at matches has gone well and here we have to thank the commitment of the South African government and South African Police Service, who have really come to the party and gone out of their way to assist Fifa and the local organising committee.”

Fifa president Sepp Blatter said no country was crime free or perfect.

”Players being robbed is sad, but as you point out, it can happen anywhere in the world — even the United States.

”We take as many precautions as possible, but I am satisfied fans, teams and the public will be safe during the 2010 World Cup finals.”

Valcke said South Africa’s six newly built stadiums for the soccer showpiece had yet to be tested.

”We need test events for those venues [Soccer City, Nelspruit, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane] before the finals.”

Valcke admitted transport and lack of accommodation in Bloemfontein, where fans and media struggled to get rooms for Confederations Cup matches, were a concern.

”We are short of 15 000 beds for the Word Cup and we are working on it. Bloemfontein was a problem, even for getting Fifa members rooms during matches.”

A suggestion on transport was that Fifa revert to the 1990 World Cup system in Italy, where teams were based at one venue for the first three matches. This would alleviate the need for public transport.

Valcke also stressed it was important for the new stadiums to continue to be used after 2010.

”The last thing we want is for these brand new stadiums to become white elephants after 2010.

”It is a real concern for us and we aim to make sure these multipurpose venues are utilised after 2010. We will discuss the issue with the Premier Soccer League and the South African Football Association.”

Blatter said South Africa would benefit economically from the World Cup on home soil.

”The legacy is the World Cup has created jobs and stopped an economic downfall in South Africa.

”It has created a lot of opportunities for many thousands of South Africans. What the world will see in 2010 is a truly successful African World Cup with excitement and tons of energy.”

‘We mustn’t sensationalise’
Meanwhile, levels of crime reported since the beginning of the Confederations Cup are no different to previous Confederations Cups hosted by other countries, local organising committee head Danny Jordaan said on Monday.

”I have been to all Confederation and World cups since 1994 and the levels of incidents in this cup are no different to other countries,” he said.

He was addressing journalists along with Deputy Police Minister Fikile Mbalula in Sandton.

”The question of theft happens everywhere … it has happened in Germany where fans were robbed.”

He said it was unfair for international media to sensationalise reported crimes.

”We mustn’t sensationalise because it’s very, very wrong. You must base your report on facts. Charge us on our track record, not on what you think might have happened.”

He said this after being questioned on the levels of security during the Confederations Cup, following the theft of money from the Egyptian soccer team’s hotel rooms on Thursday night.

Mbalula said police were monitoring security in and around stadiums and that crimes such as Thursday’s hotel robbery were isolated cases.

”I want to salute men and women in blue, they have outdone themselves in ensuring that everyone enjoys the Confederations Cup in a very peaceful manner.”

He said there hadn’t been any major breaches of security and they were investigating the incident involving Egyptian players.

”It being an unfortunate incident, we are investigating. If you bring people into the hotel as friends you must bear responsibility for them. So if you invite people who turn out to be security-unfriendly then it is unfortunate because we can’t follow you up until your room.”

Newspapers reported that the Egyptian players may have been robbed by guests attending a post-match celebration in their suites. — Sapa