D-Day finally dawns

2009-12-04 00:00

TABLE Mountain, one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks, towers above Cape Town, as do gangsterism, organised crime, the tik threat and other unimaginable social ills in the city’s poorest areas.

But today the 2010 Fifa World Cup Final Draw towers above even the city’s signature mountain and Cape Town’s pressing issues.

The looming World Cup stands both as a beacon of hope and an almost overwhelming logistical prospect for South Africa.

Following tonight’s draw at 7 pm, at the International Convention Centre, South Africa will be into the home straight in its race to be ready to host the world’s grea­test sporting spectacle.

Stumble now and the race will be lost. Keep its footing and finish strongly, and the country will be well on course in its intention of hosting the best Soccer World Cup ever.

Following 853 qualifying mat­ches played over 15-and-a-half months since the first game on August 25, 2007, when New Caledonia beat Tahiti 2-1 in the Samoan capital of Apia, the final 32 teams to compete in South Africa have been arrived upon. Tonight they will be divided into their eight first-round groups of four.

The glittering ceremony will be presented by Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke and actress Charlize Theron, and features football stars David Beckham, Franz Beckenbauer, Michel Platini, Eusebio, Luis Figo, Roger Milla, Lucas Radebe and Ruud Gullit.

The city’s Long Street will be closed to traffic as a fan fest area, where thousands are expected to converge and watch the draw on a big screen.

At yesterday’s Fifa Executive Committee meeting on Robben Island, football’s world governing body approved an increase in prize money for the 2010 World Cup to $420 million, up from $261,4 million in 2006.

The winners will receive $30 million, the runners-up $24 million, semi-finalists $20 million and quarter-finalists $18 million. Teams that reach the second round will get $9 million. Teams elimina­ted in the group stage will receive $8 million.

In addition, all 32 qualified teams will receive $1 million in preparation costs.

The executive approved that $40 million will be provided by Fifa, via the member associations, to the clubs whose players will take part in the World Cup, as a contribution to their participation in the competition.

This is in compensation for the players’ absence from their paying clubs and insurance for the risk of injury.

Fifa’s executive meeting was opened by an address from Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, a former Robben Island inmate, who was also a member of the pri­son’s Makana Football Association.

Founding members of the Makana FA, which formed against the resis­tance of the prison’s authorities, mingled and spoke to the media yesterday.

Sexwale told the press: “All rules of apartheid were supposed to be broken because they were inhuman.

“… But there were some rules we never defied, because those rules were made to be observed. Here we defied apartheid, but did not defy Fifa rules.”

He said: “It is appropriate that Fifa made South Africa the home of the 2010 World Cup. South Africa was exiled by Fifa. When organisation after organisation were taking steps against apartheid South Africa, and when Fifa also spurned apartheid South Africa, it gave hope to our people, because soccer is the biggest sporting code in this country.”

Fifa president Sepp Blatter said he is proud that the final draw will mark the beginning of the process leading to the June 11 kickoff of the World Cup.

“I first came to South Africa in 1992 when the new football association, Safa, was formed,” Blatter said. “I also met Nelson Mandela for the first time, when he was not yet president.

“I am proud to say we [Mandela and Blatter] came together again on Saturday May 15, 2004, in Zurich, where we could say, ‘and the winner is, for the World Cup 2010, South Africa’.

“So, I would say it’s a great moment for the Fifa executive, and for me personally, to be at this part of the story of humanity.”

Bafana Bafana have been seeded in the top tier of teams, along with Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, England and Italy. The South Africans will hope to avoid France and Portugal of the unseeded teams.

The draw’s expected global viewership is 250 million, as fans from the qualified countries and soccer supporters around the world tune in to find out which teams will be pitched against each other in the group phase.

The 90-minute 2010 Final Draw will be televised on SABC1, SuperSport 3 and M-Net HD.

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