/ 1 December 2009

Rugby-mad Cape set for 2010 World Cup draw

Come this Friday evening and the rugby-mad city of Cape Town will be temporarily transformed into the football capital of the world.

As dusk envelopes one of the most popular international tourist attractions, the Cape Town International Convention Centre plays hosts to the 2010 World Cup draw scheduled to be broadcast live in almost 200 countries.

Jerome Valcke, France-born secretary general of world football governing body Fifa, will conduct a draw designed to split the 31 qualifiers and hosts South Africa into eight groups.

Each team from Argentina in the deep south to North Korea in the far east is guaranteed three mini-league fixtures, with group winners and runners-up moving on to the four-round knockout stage.

The choice of Cape Town, with Table Mountain overlooking the city that regularly woos the rich and famous, was founded on democracy with Durban staging the qualifying draw and Johannesburg hosting the June 11 opening game.

But to some South African sports lovers it must seem a strange choice given the fondness for rugby, with matches involving the oval ball consistently attracting far larger crowds than those for football fixtures.

A game involving the Springboks is a guaranteed sell-out at Newlands, but not so with Bafana Bafana, despite one of their best known players, Benni McCarthy, hailing from the Mother City.

Ask many Capetonians who the most popular football club in the city is and the snap answer will be Manchester United followed by Liverpool, a reference to the often poor backing for local elite league clubs Ajax and Santos.

Behind a draw set to attract 2 000 guests and 800 media representatives lies months of work that leading South African World Cup official Danny Jordaan is convinced will deliver a stunning show.

Jordaan bore the brunt for several years of doubters who did not believe Africa was capable of staging the most popular sports event in the world and he cannot contain his excitement as the draw countdown begins.

”There are two projects left in the delivery of the World Cup — the draw this Friday and the tournament starting next June. The Fifa Confederations Cup has really shifted the mood worldwide.

”Where people once questioned and doubted, we have now reached a position in which they are looking forward in anticipation and excitement to the Fifa World Cup in South Africa.

”The draw has all the ingredients to capture the imagination of the watching world. We look forward to welcoming the qualifying countries so that they may share the rhythm and energy of our continent,” said Jordaan.

Cape Town mayor Dan Plato is no less thrilled ahead of a draw likely to be attended by top national team coaches like Dunga of Brazil, Fabio Capello of England and Marcello Lippi of Italy.

”The timing of the draw coincides with the festive season and Cape Town is prepared to deliver a unique experience for visitors and the football fraternity alike,” he said.

Apart from the who’s who of football, the Grammy award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir, Beninoise singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo and internationally renowned South African singer Johnny Clegg will share in the 90-minute draw spectacle. — AFP