Recent comments about safety concerns regarding the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa, attributed to world sporting luminaries such as Brazilian soccer legend, Pele and Uli Hoeness, president of Bayern Munich in Germany, cannot go unchallenged.
The legendary Pele stated recently that the terrorist attack on the Togolese soccer team in the Cabinda Enclave in the Democratic Republic of Congo, more 3000 miles away from South Africa, may have a negative impact the 2010 World Cup.
Hoeness, in his wisdom, lamented the decision by FIFA to award the prestigious tournament to South Africa, due to the crime problem in South Africa.
These sentiments are not new. The FIFA Local Organising Committee has bent over backwards to assure the world that the World Cup will be safe, however, the sceptics seem to persist.
First, it was questions around South Africa’s ability to provide the infrastructure needed to host a successful event. Now that for the first time in the history of FIFA, South Africa has delivered all the stadiums to be used for the showpiece five months prior to the staging of the tournament, no one is saying anything.
That the new road infrastructure is shaping up and tickets are flying off the shelves, with over 2 million tickets already sold, proves that South Africa is ready.
Need I mention that this World Cup, declared a profit for FIFA more than 2 years ago, thanks to the financial commitments from South African and global sponsors that came to the party.
It is disheartening to hear these negative sentiments coming from people whom you’d expect to have some level of knowledge about the country and the staging of such events.
South Africa hosted an incident free Rugby World Cup in 1995, which the Springboks won. This was followed by the Cricket World Cup in 2003 where no single major crime incident was reported. Last year, we hosted over 20 000 British and Irish Lions fans who followed the team to various centres of the country during the test matches. Not a single member of the barmy army lost their arm or limbs.
It is only fair to judge the country on its record and so far the record looks good.
Crime is a reality but should never be exaggerated. If that were the case, we should all be worried about the next Wold Cup in Brazil, where cops rarely set foot in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro due to the high crime levels. Pele should look closer to home and leave us to get on with the show.
Image source: Organising Committee