Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
The excitement is here in the townships too. We have our flags, our caps, our second hand sport shirts. All that is missing are the games.
Our electricity was cut off just a few days ago in what looks as though it was a crackdown on irregular power connections by the power company Eskom. No light. No television.
The only way to get electricity now would be to run a cable from the nearby brick houses, but that’s not an option if you don’t have the money to be able to buy the wire as well as someone who will let you take from their supply.
A few lucky people still have the right connections. Their shacks will be full of neighbours coming to watch the games.
They stood in the winter sun for up to two hours just waiting to catch a glimpse of their nation’s hope, Bafana Bafana. Some swopped their usual tie and shirts to don the South African National football jersey. Those who tried to work, it seems, eventually left their work stations and joined in the trumpet blast that gripped Johannesburg’s business hub also known as Sandton.
They blew their vuvuzelas, sang Shosholoza, blew the vuvuzelas some more and finally…..the green double decker bus carrying the national team emerged. Bafana Bafana supporters showed their love to the team ahead of their World Cup Opening match against Mexico on Friday. The players, led by captain Aaron Mokoena, could be seen perched atop the open bus taking pictures of the fans below and waving at them.
Soccer City in Johannesburg will be home to the opening and the final of the FIFA World Cup this year. On Monday, the men and women who helped build the stadium were given letters that assured them of two free tickets to the opening match.
120 000 tickets will be distributed to construction, community workers and children as part of a FIFA initiative to make sure that regular South Africans, who would normally not have the opportunity to go watch a World Cup match, can see their soccer heroes in the flesh.
By Jeremy Gardiner, director, Investec Asset Management
There is a term in financial markets known as a black swan event. This term describes an event that has a significant impact on financial markets, but which could not / was not predicted by anyone. A volcano in Iceland leading to massive ‘eruption disruption’ certainly could not have been predicted by anyone. Certainly, market commentators were expecting some form of financial explosion out of Europe, but not a volcanic one!
Fortunately it seems to be ‘blowing over’ and within a week the world should be back to normal. However, this, together with charges against Goldman Sachs and ongoing fears over Greece, could just have provided the catalyst for the much expected correction markets have been anticipating for close on six months now.
World Cup organisers probably dreamed of a placid, trouble-free final countdown to the soccer spectacular, with all the fears about crime, bad transport and accommodation shortages pushed to the background for Africa’s biggest sports extravaganza. Sadly for them, they are getting the opposite. It would be difficult to conjure up a more unfortunate set of events less than 60 days before the tournament. Simmering racial tensions have burst into the open because of the murder of white supremacist Eugene Terre’blanche and the diatribes of Julius Malema, leader of the youth wing of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, who refuses to pipe down despite tough reprimands from President Jacob Zuma and other party officials. Even before what must be looking to hapless officials like a perfect storm, scenes had become commonplace of township residents rioting around South Africa against lack of improvements in their lives some 16 years after the end of apartheid.
To add to the torture for World Cup officials while the spotlight is fixed on South Africa, municipal workers have declared an indefinite strike over wages, threatening the chaotic scenes seen last year when rubbish was strewn over the streets. South Africa’s biggest labour federation has threatened strikes during the tournament to protest against big hikes in power prices.
All of this illustrates the point that countries or cities staging major world events suddenly become fixed in an often uncomfortable glare of world attention as the big day approaches. But even by these standards, South Africa looks unfortunate. World Cup officials, led by chief organiser Danny Jordaan, have spent literally years fending off suggestions that soccer fans will be in mortal danger in South Africa, which has one of the globe’s highest rates of violent crime. Jordaan and others have repeated a familiar mantra– the country has staged 150 sports and other events since the end of apartheid with little problem, millions of tourists have enjoyed South Africa’s many attractions for years without major criminal attacks and protecting a finite event is a lot less complex than overcoming the national crime wave–especially since 40,000 police have been mobilised to do only that.
Nevertheless, many foreign fans and even visiting journalists are anxious about security and alarmist media reports have undoubtedly deterred some, especially it seems in Germany–hosts of the last event. What could be worse then, as the final countdown begins, than the events of the last week or so? Terre’blanche was hacked and bludgeoned to death on April 3 in a killing whose brutality seemed almost calculated to set off new anxiety about visiting South Africa, even though police believe it was a simple criminal, rather than racial, attack. Terre’blanche’s own fringe AWB party lost no time in telling foreign journalists that overseas fans would be in danger during the World Cup and most reports on the killing mentioned the tournament’s approach. The most extreme reaction came from the U.K. tabloid the Daily Star which said English fans risked a “machete race war” –sparking howls of protest in South Africa.
All of this has been made a lot worse by Malema, a firebrand demagogue who had hitherto been apparently used by some of the ANC to hit at leftwingers in the party and to mobilise the youth vote, but who now seems to have got out of control. Terre’blanche’s supporters say that Malema’s insistence on reviving an apartheid-era song “Kill the Boer” — which has now been banned by the courts –was the direct cause of the murder. Zuma said on Sunday, in an unusually strong reprimand, that Malema’s comments and actions, including calling a BBC journalist a bastard and throwing him out of a press conference, were alien to the ruling party. Malema remained defiant despite the rebuke.
from Reuters Soccer Blog:
The bloody attack on Togo's team bus in Angola is a huge tragedy for African football and like it or not, has cast a shadow over the World Cup in South Africa in five months time -- the biggest sports event ever staged on the continent.
It is highly debatable whether the attack, which killed two members of the Togolese delegation as they arrived for the African Nations Cup and forced the squad's evacuation on Sunday, really increases the risk to teams and spectators in South Africa.
All too often the Year of This or the Year of That fails to live up to the expectations of whatever we’re supposed to be highlighting or celebrating.
There is no doubt that 2010 is going to be a big year for Africa.
The question is whether in a year’s time we’ll be looking back and saying it was big in the right ways.
from Reuters Soccer Blog:
The year 1964 was a highly significant one in the fight against Apartheid: Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island and FIFA suspended South Africa from football because of the legalised racist policies of its Government.
If anyone had suggested then that one day FIFA's Executive Committee would meet on the outcrop off the coast of Cape Town on the eve of the draw for South Africa's World Cup, they would have been derided as a fantasist.
from Reuters Soccer Blog:
So, the Confederations Cup is over and much of the pessimistic handringing beforehand proved unfounded.Despite some real logistical problems, the general verdict seems to be that the tournament was a success with enthusiastic and colourful crowds and some classy and unpredictable football, not least the United States' shock semi-final defeat of Spain and a thrilling final where Brazil went 2-0 down to the Americans before storming back to win 3-2 and ensure the football world was not thrown off its axis.Crucially, South Africa's own team, Bafana Bafana, did a lot better than many of their own fans had expected. The side suffered a lot of bad press from their terrible pre-competition form -- they did not even qualify for next year's African Nations Cup finals -- and Brazilian coach Joel Santana had been treated with scepticism by football writers and fans alike. Even Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the organising committee for next year's World Cup, expressed concern over their form. After a slow start, however, South Africa turned in a creditable, if not outstanding performance. They reached the semi-final and held eventual champions Brazil until the 88th minute when they went down to a scorching free kick by Daniel Alves. And in the third place final they pushed European champions Spain into extra time before finally losing 3-2, again to a freekick.They badly need more strike power and it looks like Santana must make peace with English-based striker Benni McCarthy who was dropped from the team for his apparent lack of commitment. But their performance gave grounds for some optimism.Bafana Bafana's Confederations Cup performance was key to the 2010 World Cup because it will encourage local fan participation -- a constant worry for the organisers, who expressed concern before this tournament about lack of home enthusiasm.Nevertheless, there are continuing worries that even the cheapest World Cup tickets are still too expensive for working class South Africans and that they will be unwilling to pay in advance for entrance in a year's time, something which goes directly against the entrenched local custom of buying tickets on match days.World Cup matches attended predominantly by foreign fans and restrained, middle class South Africans would be a huge disappointment for the first World Cup held in Africa, where the unique local atmosphere was a major selling point.That isn't the only worry in considering what the Confederations Cup tells us about the likely success of next year's much bigger global competition.FIFA boss Sepp Blatter gave organisers 7.5 points out of 10 for the Confederations Cup but World Cup veterans said this was nothing to be complacent about, given his likely tendency to talk up the tournament. Even Blatter said South Africa had to do "a little bit more" and FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke was more direct, acknowledging problems with transport, security and accommodation capacity, which is still significantly below what will be required next year.Security is a particularly sensitive issue, given South Africa's frightening reputation for violent crime, so it was unfortunate that the Confederations Cup saw alleged thefts from both Egyptian and Brazilian teams, although some of the circumstances remain mirky.More serious were security lapses in access to stadiums and other areas. Such failures must be cleared up in the time that remains if fans are to follow their teams without constantly looking over their shoulders.So the Confederations Cup provided both encouragement and warnings. Okay so far, but much more to be done. The next 12 months may be both nerve racking and frenetic for the organisers but we are all still hoping for a reasonably trouble-free football extravaganza with the special atmosphere that only Africa can give it--including those pesky vuvuzela trumpets...PHOTO: A South African fan at the June 28 Confederations Cup final REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
The debate around the vuvuzela was always going to generate big noise but for some South African commentators it has become almost a neo-colonial conflict.
The noisy trumpet, which dominates the sound waves around the stadiums during the Confederations Cup, has got a lot of people covering their ears.