Hosting the World Cup: Africa's hopes deferred

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Only hours after announcing last March that Africa's turn had come to host the 2010 World Cup, FIFA retracted on the statement.
The denial said that no official statement had been made to that effect, and that in fact, no member of its executive committee had actually made such a promise.
The rebuttal not only showed the disorder existing within the world football governing body, but also brought injustice to the Republic of South Africa and the entire continent.
Indeed, the continent had been made to believe it was at long last time for it to host the world's most prestigious football event.
Alas, after a long and winding process, punctuated with threats and dirty tricks of all kinds, Germany was chosen to organise the event.
Yet, all along the 70-month campaign to host the tournament, FIFA had promised to ensure that after Korea and Japan (co-organisers of the 2002 finals), Africa follows suit.
From the outset there were nine bidders, then eight.
At one time there were only six: South Africa, Germany, Britain, Brazil, Morocco, and Nigeria which were supposed to confirm their application for the organisation of the 2006 World Cup by 30 April 2000.
As expected, Ghana and Egypt withdrew because for lack of infrastructure.
Before then, the executive committee of FIFA had disqualified Mexico because its application arrived after the deadline.
The President of the world football governing body, Joseph Blatter of Switzerland, clearly expressed his "personal desire" to see Africa host the competition in 2006.
"For the sake of change, this continent deserves to organise the World Cup," he had intimated in Zurich on 16 April 2001.
This was bad news for both Germany and Britain, which were locked in a fierce "administrative and sports war" to host the event.
On the other hand, it was encouraging news for the Cameroonian- born President of the African Football Confederation (AFC), Issa Hayatou.
But during its session of 16 July 2000, the executive committee of FIFA surprised everybody by entrusting the organisation of the 2006 World Cup finals to Germany in a voting that gave Germany 12 votes as against 11 for South Africa.
The abstention of the delegate from New Zealand, Charles Dempsey, denied Africa the much-needed wanted opportunity.
It was a big surprise inasmuch as pundits had looked forward to South Africa's bid holding sway, at least for the sake of equity.
Indeed, from 1930 to 1998, the World Cup finals simply rotated either among European nations (9 times) or in America (7 times).
Asia is hosting it in 2002 for the first time.
The usual argument of "lack of infrastructure and of means" does not hold in the case of South Africa, which meets all the requirements for the organisation.
Furthermore, the President of FIFA had openly expressed his support for Africa in the race to host the 2006 World Cup.
This support in a way accounted for his appointment to head FIFA because it brought him African votes in 1998.
Apart from South Africa, Morocco was the only other serious African bidder.
A visit of the FIFA delegation to the country, coupled with statements of made by its members, notably Alan Rothenberg from the USA, had livened up hope among the Moroccans.
Although it was the country's third bid to host the World Cup, it failed like did previous attempts, even though Rothenberg had averred that "the Moroccan file had been very professionally constituted.
" King Mohammed VI had even promised to personally ensure that all facilities including an 80,000-capacity stadium in Casablanca are set up.
Also, as Najib El Amrani contended in the weekly Le Temps du Maroc, (3-6 March 2000), the strong arguments were first of all "about the right of the African continent to organise, at least once, this planetary competition.
" The paper said Africa was not necessarily clamouring for a rotation system by which all the continents would alternatively manage to host the event.
It is widely reasoned, though, that South Africa's bid strongly compromised Morocco's chances.
Eventually, however, the two European candidates used their material wherewithal to convince the 27-man FIFA executive committee to vote for one of them.
Morocco had counted on a "historic legitimacy" by reminding the world that it was the first African country to question the football tradition by demanding, since 1986, that the African continent be given the right to organise the World Cup.
It had initially targeted the 1994 World Cup, that went to the US.
It was on the account of such legitimacy and on the principle of change that the US sought and hosted the tournament, although it said it was also to promote football in the country.
That 2002 it was the turn of Korea and Japan to jointly organise the tournament shocked no one.
The designation of these different countries is in line with the rotation principle.
"FIFA thus respected to the letter its mission statement, which says it should promote football in the countries and regions where this sport is not very popular," the newspaper pointed out.
Now it has become necessary for the confederation to move ahead and give the claim real meaning.
In the interest of the sport's development, FIFA must develop football in regions where the sport is very popular but where there is not financial and material means are key setbacks.
Even some Europeans who care about justice share this point of view, including Gary Bailey, a former goalkeeper of the English team, as well as Terry Paine who played in the British team that won the 1966 World Cup.
The two men recently told PANA that by choosing Germany at the expense of South Africa for the 2006 edition, FIFA had failed to mend the inequalities within the world football.

19 december 2001 13:39:00

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