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Bullish Blatter must focus on legacy

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David Bond | 15:32 UK time, Friday, 23 April 2010

Forget all the scare stories about crime and security. Don't worry about half-empty, half-finished stadiums. South Africa is ready.

That was the message here in Zurich on Friday from Fifa's top two, Sepp Blatter and Jerome Valcke, the Swiss-Franco partnership driving the vision of Africa's first World Cup.

With 49 days to go to the opening match between South Africa and Mexico at Johannesburg's Soccer City, both Blatter and Valcke were in bullish form at Friday's news conference - the last before the football world heads south - which was held at the opulent monument to football's TV boom, Fifa House.

They claim stadiums will be at 95% capacity after ditching their internet sales process and opting to sell tickets over the counter at centres across the country. There are 300,000 left but Valcke, the Fifa secretary-general, believes the vast majority will go.

Blatter poses with the World Cup mascot, ZakumiBlatter poses with the World Cup mascot, Zakumi. Photo: AP

On security and crime, both dispelled the fears which have seemingly prevented foreign visitors from committing to trips this summer. Blatter said we, the media, had got it wrong by inflating the scale of the fear factor. "Millions of visitors go to South Africa every year," said the Fifa president. "Now they will suddenly stop because there is a World Cup? It's the wrong approach."

Valcke revealed that anticipated visitor numbers for the month of the World Cup were now up to 360,000. Slowly, perhaps with flight and hotel prices dropping and the event drawing nearer, people from all parts of the globe are starting to get excited.

Blatter certainly is, expressing, in a way which only he can, that he felt like an actor about to take to the stage for the big performance. Never mind the world's best players - Lionel Messi, Fernando Torres, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo - it's all about Blatter's grand vision.

He said taking the World Cup to Africa - one of the three missions he set himself when he was elected president in 1998 - would help tackle poverty, education and health problems in the sub-Saharan region. No small claim for a 64-match event taking place over 30 days.

Clearly no sporting event can do that. If poverty, education and health problems are to be addressed, then governments need to act to ensure South Africa is left with a lasting legacy when the TV cameras have gone home and the vuvuzelas have fallen silent.

But with concerns over South Africa's readiness beginning to fade - although clearly security worries are not going to suddenly vanish - it is the tournament's legacy which provides the real challenge for Blatter and Valcke now.


  • Comment number 1.

    All too true, nevertheless I really can't wait for this, like every, World Cup!

  • Comment number 2.

    Expect some dodgy refereeing decisions in favour of African teams in this World Cup.

    South Korea 2002 (cough)

    As you say in your blog without mentioning the implications, a certain person's 'legacy' has too much riding on it. Blatter already commented on South Africa's friendly against North Korea recently, which ended 0-0. 'To progress, South Africa need to score goals', he said. He'll be taking a personal interest, don't worry about that.

  • Comment number 3.

    I was intending to go on my own and the security issues weren't such a major concern. I was more worried about high prices and a reported lack of accomodation, in addition to problems with internal transfers. When I considered that it is also their winter, I thought why bother? Too much hassle. I hope they learn from their mistakes for the next WC in Brazil.

  • Comment number 4.

    I can't wait for the world cup.. Afica is going to be awesome!

    lets hope they bring in back to England in 2018!

  • Comment number 5.

    The real question after south africa and brazil will fifa finances be any state for the next president to be able to invest in the future of the worlds game.

    I can't see either this world cup or brazil being the fifa cash cow that world cups like germany 06 USA 94 were. The world TV deal soften the impact of lower ticket prices but I guess corpate and sponsor sales are not the same level as they would be in the USA or england.

    FIFA real only source of income that keeps all the other competions and grass roots investment (along with the gravy train for blater and co) going is the money from the world cup.

    In such I can see fifa going for two world cups after brazil in which they will be massive amounts of money in such I see england and the USA as faviouties given the profits back in 94 and the size of intrest in english legaue football and being hour closer to the US and south america.

  • Comment number 6.

    Seriously? Has Blatter lost his mind? The credulity of the FIFA World Cup as the greatest football festival has deteriorated steadily since 1998. This competition will reveal it as little more than a sideshow to the Champions League carnival, which in turn has nothing on the English Premier League in terms of talent and gritty competition. RIP FIFA.

  • Comment number 7.

    I've heard Blatter gained the presidency against all odds through the African vote. It was said he made promises which included the finals going to Africa in return for the kudos of the job.

    His legacy will be insisting on continuing to use 19th century technology to ref the game causing the game to be made a mockery by incorrect reffing decisions which have become a lottery whilst the man has blocked the introduction of available technology embraced by most other leading sports.

  • Comment number 8.

    I know a couple of people who bought tickets as they have family in South Africa. However they had to cancel those tickets due to the airlines charging extortionate amounts for flights. Sorry but as usual everyone involved is trying to cash in on supporters and trying to milk people for all they can. I really hope this World Cup is a fantastic spectacle and does a lot for the African continent but I do think there have been a lot of mistakes made already (the ticket fiasco springs to mind) and there will be plenty more still to come.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    FIFA ought to be considered a criminal organization but unfortunately we cannot prove they do anything wrong in a legal sense (that we know of).

    In a moral sense however, things are different. FIFA however is making sure local small businesses will not make a dime from this World Cup by banning local beverage/food salespeople from within a mile of each stadium on matchdays. Blatter is making sure the corporate sponsors will make a killing and FIFA will walk away with the profits leaving South Africa with the bills and a number of 'white elephant' stadiums.

    And I agree with #2 here that referees will probably be put under massive 'pressure' to try and favor the continental teams of Africa. Expect referees from obscure leagues to be appointed for games of Ghana and all that. Ivory Coast can probably expect a boost in the crucial Portugal game because FIFA wants Ivory Coast and Brazil in the second round. Sorry Portugal.

  • Comment number 11.

    Why must you Europeans always take the bleakest view of South Africa? I'm a 'white' South African living in Cape Town, and I cannot emphasize enough how very proud I am, not only at the World Cup coming to my country and continent, but at the tremendous improvements to our transport infrastructure, hospitality sector, security services and communications sector we had achieved within only a short few years since winning the bid. We are ready, and believe me, afterwards half the world will regret not having made the effort to come and see the true South Africa - rather than the nonsense you read in your newspapers. We have invested literally hundreds of billions of rands and in the process we have created hundreds of thousands of jobs. South Africans of all backgrounds have come together to work at making this an event to remember, and despite the negative reports about some fringe radicals on both sides of the political spectrum, we have once again become a united nation with a common purpose. Now, does that sound like a failure even before the event takes place?

  • Comment number 12.

    Nico de Lange you're not Sepp Blatter in disguise are you?
    The 2010 World Cup will be remembered in many ways Im sure. For me, it will be those dreadful vuvuzelas and the horrible constant drone they make. They ruined the Confederations Cup last year. Blatter has said the wants them as they form part of the African culture. How can these pieces of plastic really form part of anyones culture??
    How can these be called part of someones culture when they are only a few years old?

  • Comment number 13.


    The contrast between FIFA's avarice in trying to suck in huge numbers of foreign tourists and Cricket South Africa marketing of the recent Test series against England could not be starker. The Cricket prices were low to encourage the locals to attend, to the extent that BBC Commentators spluttered "absolutely ridiculous". Yet it worked in a country where Cricket is far from being the number one sport.

    Yes Brazil and South Africa are large countries so transport costs will always be a factor irrespective of any World Cup. What FIFA ought to have done was to do a deal with the transport industries in order to prevent sudden price inflation. As for accomodation most football fans are geared towards the backpacker type of hostelry, and I am not sure if either country can meet the demand and price for the numbers concerned.

    I do know Brazil, and the excitement of the locals will transcend whatever small diffculties the tourists may encounter. That many Brazilians are directly descended from Africa, I am equally sure that the local enthusiasm will not be muted. Unfortunately crime and violence are present wherever you go, and to highlight this is most unfair to South Africa.

    It is also about time that the myth of an Olympics, World Cup etc bringing untold riches to the host country is dispelled. Some people and private companies make money yes, but the financial bail out of Greece this week (Olympics 2000) is a big wake up call. Is Canada still not paying for the Montreal Olympics? Conversely the last Euro Football Championships held in Austria/Switzerland was voted the best tournament by fans despite little investment in new facilities.

    Is it too much to ask that post Blatter we will see a more philanthropical approach to running world sports? Under Blatter some football clubs are as powerful, if not more, as the Football Associations. There is too much money in the game and to be honest neither Blatter nor Platini have the guts or brains to restore sanity to an industry that will shortly be dominated by a monopoly of 10 or so European clubs. The way it is going it is possible that future club contracts will prohibit a player representing his country, if that country's FA does not provide insurance cover in case of injury.


  • Comment number 14.

    a lot of people have been put off by the distance and the greed.

    hotels quadrupling their prices.

    flights doing the same.

    corporate greed. the child of the 80's, is now fully grown!

  • Comment number 15.

    When are they going to get rid of this bumbling, inept, bought and paid-for fool and have an overhaul of the apparatus that creates little tin gods of non-entities.

  • Comment number 16.

    2- I hope the officials get the key decisions right in this world cup unlike 2002. It was a disgrace how korea got to the semis, it was either against spain or italy where so many decisions went there way, and i remember thinking, how!!.Nevertheless cannot wait for this world cup.Spain have to be the favourites but you cant rule out the likes of Brazil,Italy,Argentina and Hopefully England.

  • Comment number 17.

    #12. NeutralsDontExist. I remember the 1974 World Cup in West Germany which came with klaxons and gave the tournament atmosphere. World Cups have become too corporate and stale when it comes to atmosphere so I welcome the vuvuzelas. World Cups are suppose to be a festival of football reflecting the culture and customs of the host country, otherwise they might as well be held in the same place every 4 years.

    What I do regard as poor organisation, and this seems to be the norm now in World Cups, is scheduling fixtures that mean countries play each game in different cities 100,s or even 1000,s of miles apart making fans with group tickets for all their nations games have to pay extortionate travel costs and having to constantly change hotels.

    It's time to the World Cup was given back to the fans.

  • Comment number 18.

    Well, well i wish all the best to SA, but i have to agree that the noise from this thing called vuvuzela are horribly annoying when you watching on TV. The noise is like thousand flies flying above your head. It might be carnival atmosphere at the stadium but there are millions watching on TV. So, FIFA should listen and respect what the world things. Hope they will do something and keep the vuvuzelas at the low point.

  • Comment number 19.

    So why did me saying tat Blatter bribed African votes with the world cup and that small nations have too much power in FIFA break any house rules?

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    To avoid awarding an African country the World Cup would have been a political disaster, if it wasn't 2010 it would have to be 2014. Great, so he avoids that rascist scenario by giving it to South Africa, and meanwhile appearing not to be rascist while introducing Nationalistic Rascist 6 plus 5 regulations limiting the number's of African player's from playing in the Premier league, because they have to have a certain passport ! Blatter's legacy will make the youth in Europe more rascist and nationlistic. Blatter's legacy will not allow the like's of Wenger, Ferguson or Mourinho or Guardiola to choose the player's they want to create their beautiful canvas, they'll have to choose what country they came from, the legacy of the World Cup will be fantastic for the African people but not those poor African footballer's that want to play in the Premiership, but don't be fooled by mixing Politic's with Sport ! Blatter may be bullish now but all will be beared !

  • Comment number 22.

    The legacy of this world cup will be to reveal that if you concede enough Red cards and worthless Yellow card's and thwart a goal at all cost's knowing that you have another 11 fantastic player's to select from, that you have a very good chance of winning the World Cup as proved by the illegal tactic's of the Italian victory at the last World Cup.

  • Comment number 23.

    I was in working Germany before, during and after the 2006 WC. The tournament organised by the Germans was the best ever. The way the locals welcomed everyone, the fan zones set up by the German FA, the transport network (which is fantastic anyway), food and drink prices (sligtly inflated but no-one got ripped off) and the proximity of Germany to all of the European finalists, and the fantastic airports for those who had to fly, made it a perfect location.

    South Africa is geographically disadvantaged and the crime figures do not lie. South Africa is second only to Columbia, for murders per year, and miles ahead of all European countries. Given the cost and the fear of crime, no wonder people are staying away.

    Very poor choice for a WC but no doubt it is a FIFA political decision. How else could Blatter keep on surviving with his anachronistic last millenium opinions and ideas? The man is a dinosaur but seemingly still a very powerful one.

  • Comment number 24.

    In 1990, the tournament didn't really become truly tainted until Rijkaard spat at Voller in the last 16.

    In 1994, it didn't become tainted until the twin scandals of Maradona's failed drug test and the murder of Andrés Escobar.

    In 2002, it didn't become tainted until the suspicious refereeing that helped the hosts South Korea make improbable progress.

    In 2006, it didn't really become tainted until the referee in the Portugal-Netherlands game loses the plot (followed of course by the infamous incidents involving Rooney, Ronaldo, Zidane and Materazzi).

    2010? This World Cup is still over a month away from kicking off. And already it's irredeemably tainted.

  • Comment number 25.

    Sharp as tack investgative BBC Reporter ...."Dear your highness, el presidente the magnifico, Lord Sepp of Septicaemia. How do you think the world cup on which you hang your esteemed and so world enhancing impact on humanity, will go?"

    Lord Sepp of Septicaemia....."Leesten ma leetle grubby belly crawler. Have a few crumbs off my table and remember ....what Lord Sepp says and wants....Lord Sepp gets. Eet weel be breelliant!! No one who matters weel die, or be robbed, or meess a game. Eet weel be fantastico. Een fact I weel revive ma ideea of having eet every 2 years. That weel teech those ECL wasters. And tell Michel Platini (remember he was my football conscience) he ees doing a wonderful job. I am keeping hees seat warm here."

    I have just completed a tour of some of the SA stadiums. Absolutely superb. Getting to and from them....well that's a different matter. Getting from for instance Joburg airport into Joburg? That's an even bigger question. (Buses? Trains?)

    Cape Town will be loved by everyone who goes there. The hospitality and atmosphere of Bleomfontein,Rustinburg, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Pretoria should be enough to allay the fears of even the most suspicious of visitors.

    But Joburg.....that's a different problem entirely. The centre of the town is fast becoming a maze of crime, criminals and immigrants who don't give a damn about anyone else. The locals (every creed, colour and culture) and the big businesses have moved out leaving the feral new inhabitants to destroy it's historic beauty and pollute its streets. I wouldn't go walking there in the evening for a pot of Gold.

    The rest of the country is marvellous and if you are going then plan to jump on the magic bus or the greyhounds and get out and about. Visit the cultural centres and the townships, stay with the real people and not just those that match the Sepp Blatter stereotype.

    You will come away with unforgettable memories, a humbler person, and a new hope for the future of Africa.

    Just don't expect everything to work the way you expect it should. This is Africa and Africa time is different!

    By the way, if you get to Bloemfontein - visit Siwelele home of Bloemfontein Celtic. Talk to the fans in the township and believe me your faith in Football will increase a hundred fold.


  • Comment number 26.

    Right that the WC should be in Africa but it won't be attractive to many Europeans who not surprisingly get put off by very high levels of violent crime.

    FIFA will probably make sure the refs are lenient on South Africa as other people have mentioned about SKorea. In SKorea it was the first time they used refs from developing countries for the games and boy did it show. The Italy and Spain exits to SKorea were a disgrace, though try telling that to your korean pals!

    Bet Jack Warner still manages to make a personal profit out of the WC though!

  • Comment number 27.

    What will Blatter's legacy be? Huge houses and bank balances for him and the other Fifa bigwigs while the people of South Africa are several billion dollars poorer for the privelige of hosting the event.

    Fifa make all the money from sponsorship and tv rights, South Africa will make money on tickets and tourism, but the way things are looking they won't be getting full stadia or hotels. They've had to discount tickets for locals who wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise, thereby reducing potential revenue. Other Africans will have to pay full price, travel and hotel costs etc so can't afford it. Europeans are put off by distance, cost and the crime factor. The general worldwide economic downturn isn't helping either.

    If not many turn up then the economic claw-back of the costs for South Africa just won't materialise. Fifa will sit back and count their billions while South Africa counts it's losses.

  • Comment number 28.

    My main complaint relates to the FIFA ticketing system which is a farce.

    In theory I should be able to release tickets back to FIFA for them to sell on. Despite having relased some surplus tickets these matches are shown as sold out and therefore my tickets cannot be purchased by fans.

    This will only result in empty seats at the stadium.

    Is anyone else frustrated by this problem?

    Apart from that I am excited about the trip - planning ahead meant that flights, accommodation and car hire were all available at affordable prices.

  • Comment number 29.

    Give South Africa a chance ........we hosted successful tournaments in the past 95 RWC, Cricket World Cup, Confed Cup, T20 world cup etc etc.

    All the nay sayers will be eating humble pie after the World Cup. Yeah there is crime in SA, but , its like that in most major cities in other countries , as well. Only difference is...... SA's crime is highlighted in big bold font in international newspapers.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    "My game is fair play", that is FIFA's slogan is it not.

    Blatter must go, FIFA must step out from behind their wall of Swiss legal protection, and stand up to be counted. Kaka's sending off was bad enough, easily rectified in 10 secs by a forth official. England's goal allowed, Argentina's disallowed, 10 secs at most, no cost to FIFA, the technology was there already, basic video replay.

    Video replay for ALL goals, all penalties, and all sendings off. Oh and a sin bin for yellow cards. stop some of that obstruction in midfield.

  • Comment number 32.

    dreemcatcher , I hope you don't see these attacks as attacks on SA, they are at the FIFA top brass, by all accounts SA has pulled out all the stops. As an armchair viewer cannot see any problems with SA's contribution. Ticket allocations appear to have gone a bit wrong, but that's FIFA's baby not SA's


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