Who made Fifa God?

2009-12-11 00:00

SO who died and made Fifa God? This is the key question that Fahrenheit 2010, a feature documentary on the impact of the 2010 Fédération Internationale de Football Association Soccer World Cup on South Africa, is asking.

And it’s a pertinent one. After the staging of a very professional World Cup draw that made me really proud to be South African, it might just be too easy to shelve pertinent questions that an “alternate” sect is still asking.

Don’t get me wrong, I am massively in favour of South Africa hosting this global event and truly believe we will do an amazing job, but watching Fahrenheit 2010 definitely got me thinking.

Billed as a documentary that “cuts through the hype, with an uncompromising examination of what the World Cup means for South Africans themselves”, it questions not whether South Africa should host the Soccer World Cup, given that the marketing and revenue opportunities are there for all to see. It rather asks who actually stands to benefit from the diversion of millions of dollars to build 21st-century sports arenas in a country in which, 15 years after throwing off apartheid’s yoke, millions live in shacks and have no access to water — a South Africa where life expectancy has plummeted beneath that in Ethiopia.

A few shock stats from the documentary set the scene.

More murders take place in South Africa each year than in the United States, a country that has a population six times greater than ours.

The bricks used in just the walls surrounding the houses of South Africa’s wealthy would have solved the country’s housing issues.

Bafana Bafana’s world ranking since winning the African Cup of Nations in 1996 reads like a down-hill ski slope. They would not have qualified if they were not the hosts.

But to my mind, the most pertinent question asked, is why spend such a massive amount of money on new stadia? After all, the Confederations Cup — declared a success by Fifa — was played in stadia that were in existence before South Africa won the bid.

But Fifa put in place a requirement for all big Soccer World Cup games to be played in stadia with at least 70 000 seats. Quite obviously a requirement to make sure new stadia are built. And we just said yes.

As Martin Welz, editor of Noseweek, points out: “At what stage does the TV camera pick up the difference between a 70 000-seat stadium and a 50 000-seat stadium?”

He goes on to say: “South Africa has been seduced without the ability to critically review. Fifa doesn’t care what the post- Soccer World Cup plan is. Fifa only cares about Fifa and the TV revenue generated by the event, none of which comes to South Africa.”

The point I think the documentary misses is that this money would not have come into the country were we not staging the Soccer World Cup. So it is easy to ask why the money is not rather being spent on some form of socio-economic reform process, but the fact of the matter is that the money is only available because we are hosting the Soccer World Cup. And money is not only being spent on massive stadia, it is also being spent on a fantastic upgrade of our infrastructure. Sure the traffic jams are frustrating now, but the improved road, train and air structures are going to be key to this country’s success going forward­.

Could we have staged a successful Soccer World Cup while spending less money? Yes, by spending less on the stadia, even though they are going be amazing. Have we been bent over the barrel by Fifa? Yes, but we certainly don’t seem to be the first.

I will close with a quote from Desmond Tutu from the documentary: “The World Cup is a wonderful thing for South Africa, and if we are left with a few white elephants, we are left with a few white elephants.”

Fahrenheit 2010 will make you think. — Sport24.

• Fahrenheit 2010 will be shown at the KZNSA gallery in Durban on Sunday at 7 pm.

• Tank Lanning is the editor of Sport24.

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