2010-07-10 11:04Email | Print
SA savouring SWC success
Lula: SA enchanted the world
'We are almost at the end'
Johannesburg - The warnings were there for all who would hear them: the stadiums would not be ready and if they were, they would be empty; visitors would fall prey to criminal elements; and terrorists would stage an attack.
Even Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness said he would not travel to South Africa.
"I was never a fan of the World Cup being held in South Africa, or anywhere on the African continent, as long as safety aspects are not clarified 100%t," he said a few months ago.
With one day left to go it was pretty apparent that the prophets of doom who had forecast a disastrous World Cup in South Africa got it wrong.
Stadiums would not be ready: Strikes and problems in finishing the construction of stadiums led many to doubt that all the stadiums would be ready in time for the finals. When FIFA scrapped the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth as a Confederations Cup venue, citing problems in finishing the stadium as a reason, it was seen as an indication that there were problems with the stadiums. These doubts, however, were proven fruitless as all 10 venues were in excellent condition for the games.
Empty Stadiums: The stadiums would be empty, it was feared. And certainly football's controlling body FIFA was concerned at the slow sale of tickets with just a few months to go. A number of initiatives kick-started the sales, and with government departments and parastatal organisations buying tickets, attendance at the finals topped the 3 million mark during the second semi-final match in Durban - a figure reached only twice before: in the US in 1994 and Germany in 2006.
Security: Security concerns were by far the biggest fear and the country's high crime rate, with 50 murders a day, was considered as one of the reasons why the number of estimated foreign visitors was decreased from 450,000 to 350,000. South African officials however increased the police force, and 46,000 police and 300 surveillance cameras ensured a near-crime free tournament that saw virtually no World Cup-related incidents.
Terrorism Attacks: In the run-up to the tournament there was a lot of speculation that terrorist groups would stage attacks on World Cup teams and games. These fears increased when an alleged al-Qaeda supporter arrested in Iraq said he wanted to attack the Dutch and Danish teams at the World Cup. Shortly before the June 11 opening game, Zimbabwe police arrested two Pakistanis who were en route to South Africa. One of them was wanted on an Interpol arrest warrant, which was said to be for terrorism.
Infrastructural Problems: Another fear was that the country would simply not be able to cope with the influx of visitors and there would be huge problems with the transportation of fans to the stadiums. And although there was one huge problem at the semi-final in Durban between Germany and Spain, when several planes with fans failed to arrive in time because they could not land as private jets blocked the runway, it was an isolated incident.
Bafana Weakness: Another fear - and one that even FIFA president Joseph Blatter addressed - was that the South African team would simply be too weak to be competitive. Even though Bafana Bafana became the first host to be knocked out in the first round, they did not disgrace themselves and came close to securing an unlikely spot in the knock-out stages with a victory in their last group match against France.
Thus the prophets of doom saw all their predictions fail as the World Cup did not disintegrate into the chaos they had foreseen.
Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said at a press conference at which the 2014 World Cup emblem was unveiled that he had never doubted South Africa.
"After 2006 everybody thought that we would never again see such a World Cup with so much perfection. But in the last few years I never had the feeling that South Africa would not be ready.
"I always said that they would host a beautiful World Cup and that is how it happened."
The Brazilian-born coach, who won the World Cup with the Selecao in 1994, said that his native country should follow in South Africa's example.
"The Brazilians have to follow in the footsteps of the South Africans, who had to overcome many problems. I am certain that Brazil will be able to stage a World Cup similar to the South African one."
Whether they manage to do that will only be known in four years, but it seems likely that many of the prophets of doom, who predicted the worst for South Africa, will now move their efforts to the Brazilian World Cup, which they are sure will end in disaster.