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Bram Hovenaar
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What the World Cup Did for South Africa and Its People

11 July 2014, 15:00
What the World Cup Did for South Africa and Its People

It was only 4 years ago when South Africa was on the eve of hosting Africa’s first FIFA World Cup. But there were questions on whether South Africa was ready:

•    Would stadiums be ready?
•    Would crime be down?
•    Would logistics be managed?

All the answers were yes…maybe. There were also long term questions:

•    How to judge a World Cup;
•    Value of the financial investment;
•    Effect on local games;
•    Help on tourism, national prestige and social cohesion;

Basically, the World Cup was an opportunity missed!

South Africa spent over $3 billion on infrastructure, with two-thirds used to renovate and build 10 stadiums for the World Cup. Six were built from scratch. Only two, FNB Stadium and Port Elizabeth, have any promises of economic sustainability. The other 4 venues have no value. In terms of related setup, South Africa did upgrade airports, railways and highways.

Transportation for the public remains limited and crime is still a shadow over every area of daily life.

The South African team was not good - weaker than before 2010. Eleven months prior to the World Cup, the ‘South African Football Association’ (SAFA) employed Carlos Alberto Parrera, the coach from Brazil who had won the World Cup back in 1994.

Parreira found in Bafana Bafana, (team nickname) a group with high work rate but only skills that were average and very little experience playing in European clubs. He wanted the domestic season to end in March in order to train the national team for 3 months prior to the tournament and tried to transform this team into a defensive and counterattacking team.

Sadly, few players had played in such a system. They were lucky to tie with Mexico, awful playing Uruguay losing 3-0 and were even luckier to play a French team that was imploding and got their only win in the tournament. Bafana was the first host nation to not qualify for 2nd round of play due to a goal difference to Mexico. Even after hiring 2 domestically based coaches, the deterioration has only continued with the team not even qualifying for the African Cup of Nations 2012 and the World Cup 2014.

On the closing grade of World Cup’s heritage, the grade for South Africa is “incomplete”. They expected much more traffic in tourists than actually came. Overvalued exchange rates didn’t help; flights were expensive and global economic recession all added to concerns over security and transportation that further depressed the numbers down.

A heritage fund was begun after the World Cup, so that South Africa could build a system to involve more of the youth; all to produce professional players. For now it is too early to measure the impact, as all that has been constructed so far is a string of artificial arenas in the South African landscape. They have plans for academies and the training of 10,000 new coaches annually, but all of this has been discussed before.

That “feel good” feeling has left as well. South Africans had many reasons to be pleased for hosting an incident-free tournament that was incident-free and was enjoyed by fans. But when the tournament ended, South Africa turned its focus back to the endless political scandals involving President Jacob Zuma and the increasing social unrest. Public services that are bad have caused hundreds of riots in informal settlements and townships across the country since 2010. The low point was August17, 2012 when thirty-four miners were killed by state security forces during a wildcat strike.

Hosting the World Cup didn’t change South Africa but instead just reinforced all debates and basic problems the country faces on the playing field and off it.

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