World champions Italy arrived in South Africa on Wednesday but there wasn’t much of a fanfare.
A top player seems to get injured on the eve of every major tournament and this year it looks like Didier Drogba and Rio Ferdinand have suffered the World Cup curse.
It’s been a funny build-up to the World Cup for holders Italy.
The words “South Africa” have barely been mentioned in the last week despite the Azzurri being huddled up in an Alpine ski resort trying to get used to altitude conditions.
FIFA is guaranteed massive revenue from the World Cup, primarily through billions of dollars in commercial and television rights, that will fill its coffers for the next four years. But that doesn’t hide the fact that soccer’s governing body has made basic errors in the ticketing structure for the first African edition of the world’s most watched sporting event.
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.
Ronaldinho has been left out of Brazil’s squad for next month’s friendly with Ireland, making it highly unlikely he will make Dunga’s list of 23 for June’s World Cup.