3 things that South Africans dont like hearing about during the 2010 Soccer World Cup
Not meaning to put a damper on the spirit of the World Cup which is being hosted in South Africa, though there are a few things which have to be noted concerning the first world cup tournament to be hosted on African soil.
Even with a little under a week left in the tournament, as I have often discovered when speaking to people, there are still topics which many people dont like talking about or just feel nervous when they are mentioned. So at the first chance when the these uncomfortable topics are mentioned, they often change the subject to “happier” topics such as “how great that game was” or a particular favorite is “what a great spirit the people of South Africa have since the tournament started”. While these and many others like it are in most cases an accurate account of the events that are unfolding, they are very selective truths. While the whole truth would consider that…
1. The referring officials have been worse than shit (just like the ball)
Anybody who has paid close attention to the proceedings of the World Cup, would have noticed that there have been a number of these…
And it would have been ok …. if it weren’t that most of the cards which have been issued have NOT been justified. The problem is that, the referring officials for this tournament are just not up to the standard they should be. A point which FIFA President Sepp Blatter admitted by “apologizing” for the bad calls the referees have made. As if thats going to help anything. And the linesmen are even worse than the referee himself. A good example of this was the Sunday game between Germany and England in which the linesmen completely ignored the ball crossing the goal line.
It is because of these referee mistakes that CONTINUE to happen that people who actually have brains have called for the use of technology such that such errors are refused to a minimum. By no means will the game be error free is such technology is introduced, but it will eliminate the obvious mistakes that sometimes cost an entire nation a spot in the greatest sporting event to happen in four years – like how it happened to Ireland. The thing is, the mistakes in officiating that have happened in this tournament are usually forgotten in the next day when local teams are playing like Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates – because pretty much the rest of the world actually does not give a damm. But when you have an audience of billions from across the world, players who live their entire careers just to get a moment to represent their counties in the WC, it is simply not fair to everyone that not enough is done to maintain the integrity of the decisions made in the game.
And there is another problem in this world cup…
Contrary to what Fifa and Adidas will tell you – but this ball is actually quite bad.
Remember that ball you used to play when you were a kid? The one that had 32 pentagons stitched together? You know what was great about that ball? It was aerodynamically stable. This was possible because the ball was very symmetrical in its design. What this meant was that the airflow around the ball had even influence on the balls trajectory.
Now take a look at the “Jabulani” ball and you see that this is completely different. If you look at the ball, you will notice that EVERY 270 degrees, the lines pattens on the surface of the ball are completely different. What this means is that the air acts very differently on the ball at different parts of the ball. Resulting in very unstable flight. Its for the same reason why pace bowlers in cricket will spend what sometimes looks like hours just rubbing one side of the ball – so that the ball has unpredictable flight. And it is for this very reason why Christiano Ronaldo looked like this after every free kick he took before Portugal was eliminated.
2. The cost of hosting the tournament
According to a very reliable website, the 2006 FIFA World Cup Finals that were hosted by Deutschland, apparently set back their accounting books by 1.6 Billion euros. Thats about 1.7 billion in U.S. dollars. And considering that Germany is the 4th richest country in the world with an estimated annual budget of 3.4 trillion USD, this really was small change for them. This cost of hosting the tournament was reduced because Germany is after all a first world country, and has been a first world country for a while. This is despite the fact that after the second world war, much if not all of Berlin was a big pile of rubble after allied airplanes had dropped a shower of bombs and the Soviet Red Army was out muscling the German forces on the ground. The sheer scale and pace at which Germany has managed to re-build its ecomony is quite increadible and as a result, the country did not have to do much construction for the preparation to host the tournament. Which is vastly different from South Africa.
4 years on from 2006 and we have South Africa hosting the tournament with a ball that behaves more like volleyball on steroids. And how much has the South African government paid to host the FIFA spectacle you ask? 1.6 billion euros maybe? Maybe a bit more? No – because the figure is much more astronomical than that. 35 billion ZAR to be exact. And this is great … until you remember that South Africa has places like this.
And as all South African citizens know, South Africa actually has a lot of places like that, which is in vast contradiction to what government propaganda will show / tell to foreigners coming to watch the football spectacle.
The problem is that South Africa is not the 4th richest country – it is in fact the 34th. It does not have an annual budget of 3.4 trillion USD but of 505 billion USD. A budget of which 4.9% of it has been spent on a tournament which will last only a month. Think about that for a second.
South Africa did not take the blunt of the war as Germany did, but it did go through Apartheid – a system which left the country as one of the most unequal societies anywhere. Although the system was abolished and CANNOT be served as an excuse for how the majority of people in South Africa continue to suffer through unmeasurable poverty, it did serve as the best blueprint for the next government after it as to what needs to be corrected in the country. But has that correction in society happened? NO. Instead you get Objective Based Education (OBE) – an educational system which leaves primary school kids without the ability to construct a basic English sentence without horrific grammar errors. And lets not forget the thousands that do not go to school because of being in families that are way below the poverty line. Eduacation which was suppose to be free as stated by the ANC government in 1994.
The sad thing is that South Africa today has more townships than it did during the times of Apartheid – and that should speak volumes as to how the government has really forgotten about its people. And unlike this website , which says that townships “are the true jewels of the country”, the truth could not be further from the truth. And I know this because I myself grew up in a township and I know how horrific things can get in such societies. Yet this same country has 35 billion USD to spend on a month long sporting event so that it looks good in the eyes of the world. But are ever such funds raised for the improvement of its own people, with such haste and efficiency as it has been done for the tournament? Never.
To argue that the cost of the tournament should have been minimized is probably a loosing argument. The fact is that South Africa is very much a third world country – and a third world country to host such a massive social event is a monumental undertaking, and naturally the cost will spiral out of control because of the so much building that needs to be done – BUT it is socially not just to have so much money spent on a tournament while there are kids out there who leave homes without anything in their stomachs, only to school under trees. It is socially not just to tear down an entire school because it lies in a proposed World Cup stadium venue – like how it happened in Nelspruit. It is socially not just that during the World Cup, the justice system is accelerated by having court rooms close at 11pm to speed up the convictions – like how its happening now – while South Africans have to put up with an almost non existent justice system when no tournament is happening.
So what is the cost of this sporting tournament? 35 billion USD. But to lot of pockets of society in South Africa, the true cost is betrayal. Even if they love the fact that the world has descended on their soil – it is betrayal non the less.
3. Bafana Bafana are STILL a shit team
I must admit, that this was not the original subtopic which I had picked to write about here – but having watched Al Jazzera news last night, it just seemed more appropriate to write a bit about our national team.
You see, there is something which sports does to people. A major sporting event like the World Cup often induces a scene of euphoria in the country in which the tournament is being hosted – and it is often that this ongoing euphoria clouds people’s judgement. This was especially apparent when an Al Jazzera journalist was interviewing a whole bunch of South African supporters and the general consensus among the fans (and much of South Africa) is that the national team played ok. One of the supporters even went as far as to say that the team was “bold and inspiring”. Oh really??? Clearly I must have missed something here.
Is it not this same team which has been just eliminated in the group stages? And lets not rave about the win against France because, as mentioned above, France were only able to qualify through very shady means. And lets not forget that France was a team in total disarray during this tournament and at which point they even went on strike and refused to train only a few days they were to play Bafana Bafana.
And lets not forget that the team finished with only 4 points – exactly the same number of points they finished with at the 2002 tournament before they flew home. Oh and another interesting fact. In 2002 when they were in group B with Paraguay, Spain and Slovenia they conceded 5 gaols and managed to score 5 of their own – thus ending up with a goal difference of zero. And this year? 5 goals conceded and 3 goals scored. Now you tell me how is that an inspired performance, when knowing full well that the team actually performed worse then they did the last time they were on the world stage.
And this time they exited the world cup at the group stages when being coached by a coach who had won the World Cup in 1994 while coaching Brazil. And this just further emphasizes that the problem is not really with the coach – but with the players themselves.
So yes South Africans, keep on raving about how “brave” the team played and how they “left the tournament with pride after beating France” – but at the end of the day, they are still a bad team…