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Africa ready for 2010 World Cup

May 16, 2004 15:16 IST

South Africa has been chosen to host the 2010 World Cup to the delight of fans across the soccer-mad continent.

But could a massive own goal be in the making if the scourges of crime, insecurity and AIDS spoil the party?

Hosting the biggest single global sporting event on the world's poorest continent could prove a Herculean task.

But while Africa has plenty of 'bad news' stories, there is also lots of good news out there, including a security record for big events that is favourable by global standards.


South Africa, the continent's economic powerhouse, successfully held the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and the Cricket World Cup in 2003. Both events were extremely well organised and free of major incidents.

South Africa also hosted the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 in Johannesburg, one of the most crime-ridden cities in the world.

But aside from the mugging of a Romanian delegate, few of the roughly 65,000 visitors fell victim to crime.

Compare all this with the 1972 Munich Olympics, marred by the slaying of Israeli athletes by Palestinian militants.

Or the chaos and delays that have characterised the Olympics preparations by Greece, which will host the games this year.

A British journalist detained by Greek police for entering Olympics facilities on a security expose boasted on Friday how she wandered around "with extraordinary ease" for several hours before being spotted.

"Africa is the most friendly and safest place," Jacob Mulee, Kenya's national soccer team coach, told Reuters.

"In fact, security or lack of it is not an African problem per se but Europeans and Americans export their problems to Africa to settle their scores here."

"The bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi (in 1998), for instance, did not target Kenyans but Americans. It is such interference from outside that portrays the continent in a bad light," he added.


Still, Africa does have its share of problems.

"FIFA is having to bend over backwards and is closing its eyes to lots of deficiency to allow Africa to host the tournament," said Paul Bassey, a member of the media committee for the Confederation of African Football.

South Africa, the slight favourites, won the right to host the finals after a vote by the executive committee of world soccer's governing body FIFA in Zurich on Saturday.

Morocco and Egypt lost out in the vote while Libya had to withdraw since its bid did not meet the criteria.

Tunisia had pulled out on Friday after being told by FIFA that it would not be allowed to co-host the event with Libya.

South Africa has some of the world's highest rates of violent crime, fuelled in part by an AIDS pandemic that is leaving an army of impoverished orphans in its wake.

But many poor African children have also overcome adversity to shine on the soccer pitches of Europe.

An African World Cup will give hope to many more.

"Given the massive football talent in Africa, the continent should have hosted the World Cup a long time ago," said Kenya's Mulee.

"Name any top European football club and you find their strength emanates from African footballers. The World Cup is now coming back to where the sport is most popular, almost a religion," said Mulee.

Ed Stoddard
Source: source
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