South Africa fear poor form could spoil World Cup party
The 2010 World Cup organisers were given a resounding thumbs-up after the preliminary draw in Durban on November 25, the first official event ahead of a tournament that starts in some 30 months’ time.
But the enthusiasm has been clouded by growing pressure to deliver a team that will prove competitive in 2010 and provide as big a catalyst for mass public support as the South Korean side did in 2002 and the Germans achieved 18 months ago.
Danny Jordaan, the local organising committee’s chief executive officer, often voices fears that even if the 2010 event is superbly organised and proves incident free, its success will be largely judged on how big a party it becomes. Without a national team creating momentum with positive results, the whole experience might prove a damp squib.
Jordaan was the prime mover in getting Carlos Alberto Parreira to sign as South Africa coach in January. The Brazilian World Cup winner is being paid more in a month than South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki earns in a year and the debate over his salary (US$250 000 monthly) is aired regularly, particularly when results are disappointing.
That has meant quite often of late, with South Africa dropping down to 77 in FIFA’s world rankings this year after winning just five out of 14 matches.
Admittedly there have been some stiff ties with friendlies away at world champions Italy and against Uruguay, Scotland and the United States. It is all part of Parreira’s philosophy that to prepare a side for the 2010 World Cup they have to play regularly against thee world’s best. ‘Bafana Bafana’ have a growing list of friendlies lined up against top teams over the next year, including the French and the Dutch.
Unusually for a host nation, South African will also gain further experience in competitive matches. The qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup double up as African Nations Cup qualifiers, so in order to be at Angola 2010, ‘Bafana Bafana’ must take part. That could prove to be beneficial in getting the players battle hardened.
Next month they also compete at the Nations Cup finals in Ghana. Parreira has picked a young side with the focus firmly on 2010 but while many do support his vision of calmly building before 2010, many others are impatient for success.
PHOTO: South Africa’s coach Carlos Alberto Parreira reacts during a friendly against Swaziland at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, March 13, 2007. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko