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[Interview] Nine months to South Africa 2010 – Part 2: Organisation

1 Sep 2009(Tue)

In part two of my interview with Marc Fletcher, a British doctorate researcher at Edinburgh University who recently spent 19 months investigating the football scene in Johannesburg, we discussed the organisational issues facing the World Cup in South Africa next year.


Click here for Part 1


The Confederations Cup itself was a qualified success, but the logistics, facilities, and the actual stadia involved were just a fraction of what’s going to be required next year. You’ve been around watching not only the Confederations Cup but also plenty of domestic football in South Africa – quite simply, is the country going to be ready in time?


Yes. Now, I say that most definitely because the stadia construction looks like it’s all on time. Some of it is ahead of schedule. Soccer City looks absolutely amazing, while a few of the training grounds including Orlando Stadium in Jo’burg are world class, amazing facilities. During the Confederations Cup, especially in Jo’burg again, the opening game was a bit of a disaster in terms of actually transporting all the fans from the Park and Ride car parks to the stadium and then back again. They didn’t know what they were doing, it was poorly organised, and it was a bit of a crush. It wasn’t an organised chaos; it was chaos. However, by the time it got to the final, it had improved a lot. I went to about four or five Ellis Park matches, and every time you could see that something improved, something got better. They increased police presence; they put in more barriers and signs to guide people to the right areas. You could see them learning every day. So, for all of the cities of the Confederations Cup, they will be ready. I seriously believe they will be ready.


But there are still a number of other stadiums as well, plus the matter of transport to these places that are yet to be used.


Well, this is one of the problems. In Polokwane and Nelspruit for example, they’re not going to have any kind of decent dry runs like Jo’burg, Bloemfontein, Pretoria, and Rustenberg have had. Polokwane recently had Manchester City versus Orlando Pirates, but there were only 30,000 Pirates fans, and that’s nothing like having to deal with thousands of World Cup tourists every day.


That’s what I mean – it is sometimes hard for the rest of the world to see that South Africa is going to be ready when there are issues like that still to be dealt with, with no more opportunities for a dry run as you say.


Yes, but at the same time, this isn’t a South African problem. It’s a problem that will occur in any country that hosts such a mega sporting event as the World Cup. I’m sure come the 2012 Olympics in England there are going to be some complete cock-ups! There are a lot of issues that have to be ironed out and there will be problems during the tournament. If we go back to the Western media perceptions of South Africa, all day it’s Africa, pessimistic! It reeks of neo-colonialism. ‘You’re African, we’re Western. We know what we’re on about, we know what we’re doing, you can’t host such a tournament’. And they’re always looking for such excuses. Take the Guardian newspaper for example. I have been very disappointed with the coverage by their sports writers.


There was a slightly notorious article written by Louise Taylor that was rather condescending.


Most of the blogs and the thought pieces in the Guardian have been a) condescending, b) poorly thought through, and c) not even researched, because they’ve not actually been to South Africa. I think for a paper of that stature, if they’re doing that, then South Africa has a massive task on its hands to change Western perceptions of South Africa and Africa as a whole.

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