Nervous countdown to World Cup?

2010-04-09 13:26

Giant footballs and national flags line the streets as South Africa counts down

to the 2010 FIFA World Cup but with two months to go until kick-off, fears about

violence and racial strife linger.

The killing of white supremacist leader, Eugene Terre’Blanche,

allegedly hacked to death after a wage dispute on his farm, has focused new

attention on violent crime and race tensions in South Africa after his

supporters initially vowed revenge.

“It’s not going to happen,” local organising committee chief Danny

Jordaan said yesterday. The South African government, which has spent R33

million on the tournament, hopes to give a boost to the country’s image, luring

foreign tourists and investment.

It is also counting on the event to build national unity in a

country that still bears the scars of apartheid 16 years after the end of the

segregationist regime.

Hot tickets

On April 15, South Africans will for the first time be able to buy

match tickets at sales windows instead of online, coming away with tickets in

hand.

FIFA World Cup banners and football jerseys have become ubiquitous,

and street vendors’ stalls are dripping with football gear.

Adding to the air of celebration, FIFA announced last month that

the June 10 kick-off concert in Johannesburg will feature such international

celebrities as Shakira, Alicia Keys and the Black Eyed Peas.

Recently, national flags have been flying from car windows even in

white neighbourhoods, where football has never been popular, and giant inflated

footballs have dotted host cities.

Back-up

Last month the police department said it would deploy 41?000 extra

police and keep the army on a “state of alert” during the tournament.

The country’s security measure also received a nod from the

Interpol, which last month said it was satisfied with the country’s security

plans.

But South Africa has in recent months seen scores of violent

protests concerning shoddy public services in poor neighbourhoods, and violence

over a new bus networks to overhaul long-neglected public transport ahead of the

tournament.

The cities’ collective mini-bus drivers, who for decades enjoyed a

monopoly as the apartheid regime, have protested violently against the

systems.

As the June 11 opening match nears, South Africa’s worries also

extend to the mediocre performance of the national side Bafana Bafana, who will play Mexico at Soccer City, Johannesburg, in the

curtain-raiser.

Coach Carlos Parreira said the team needs to improve its fitness

and ball possession: “If there’s one thing I’d like to see the team do much

better, it’s in valuing the ball possession.

“If you see games here in the league, it’s like table tennis. Go

and come, go and come. Nobody keeps the ball.”


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