by Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed
The awarding of World Cup 2010 to South Africa was hailed as a great ‘victory’ for the African continent and the cause of much celebration. It heightened expectations not only about the spectacle itself but about the benefits that would accrue to South Africa and the rest of Africa. This essay examines the notion of the successful bid as an ‘African victory’ in the context of global power relations in football, South Africa’s alleged function as a sub-imperialist power on the continent, and xenophobic attacks on African immigrants in South Africa.
After tracing the politics around South Africa’s involvement in FIFA, this essay critically interrogates the benefits touted for South Africa and Africa: development for the SADC region, economic opportunities for ordinary South Africans, increased tourism in South Africa, and football development and peace and nation-building across the continent. Will the World Cup, as Thabo Mbeki would like, be the moment ‘when Africa stood tall and resolutely turned the tide on centuries of poverty and conflict?’
“The basis of [South Africa’s] bid was a resolve to ensure that the 21st century unfolds as a century of growth and development in Africa … This is not a dream. It is a practical policy … the successful hosting of the FIFA World Cup™ in Africa will provide a powerful, irresistible momentum to [the] African renaissance … We want, on behalf of our continent, to stage an event that will send ripples of confidence from the Cape to Cairo – an event that will create social and economic opportunities throughout Africa. We want to ensure that one day, historians will reflect upon the 2010 World Cup as a moment when Africa stood tall and resolutely turned the tide on centuries of poverty and conflict. We want to show that Africa’s time has come.”
President Thabo Mbeki, 2003
When Thabo Mbeki was recalled by the African National Congress (ANC) in September 2008, one of the first public acts of new president Kgalema Motlanthe was to assure FIFA president Sepp Blatter that South Africa ‘remains on course to host in 2010 the best FIFA World Cup ever – an African World Cup’. The awarding of the World Cup to South Africa was a cause for much celebration across the continent. For the hosting country it is hugely symbolic. It was apartheid South Africa’s reaffiliation to FIFA in the 1950s that united African nations in calling for its exclusion. It is also the first time that the tournament will be held in Africa. The Olympic Games and Football World Cup are the two most prized international sporting mega-events and Africa’s failure to host either of these reflects for many the continent’s political and economic marginalization.
The wide exposure provided by World Cup 2010 will present an opportunity to show that Africa can match the best in Europe in terms of infrastructure, services and razzle-dazzle that is part and parcel of these mega-events.
This essay examines the notion of the successful bid as an ‘African victory’ in the context of the global political economy of football as well as South Africa’s often fraught relationship with Africa. It briefly traces the politics around the relationship of South Africa, the Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF) and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), before examining the language and tenor of the World Cup bid and its supposed benefits for Africa. What does Africa stand to gain from World Cup 2010 to warrant its billing as a pan-African event that will ‘provide a powerful, irresistible momentum to [the] African renaissance’?
2010: Africa’s turn
South African soccer officials and government ministers have justified the holding of the World Cup on a number of levels. The broad rationale is that it will be a boost for South Africa specifically and more generally the African Renaissance agenda, heralding the growing unity of the continent in its quest to escape the quagmire of poverty. South Africa has played a major role in informing the way CAF related to FIFA in spite of not gracing the soccer fields of the African continent for most of the years of apartheid (1948–94). CAF’s struggle to exclude South Africa from FIFA was a persistent theme, as much as its own struggle for greater representation within FIFA.
With the demise of apartheid, South Africa argued robustly that Africa should host the World Cup and put itself forward as a candidate. The South African Football Association’s (SAFA) bid to host the 2006 World Cup was on the basis that it was ‘the best qualified country in Africa’. The official Bid for 2006 held that ‘South Africa will represent all of Africa in hosting this event’. The successful bid was made on the basis of a (Pan) African World Cup.
Claims about alleged benefits reflect the sheer scale of the event and the fact that soccer is by far the continent’s most popular sport. Successfully staging the World Cup, according to a government website, would ‘spread confidence and prosperity across the entire continent … South Africa stands not as a country alone – but rather as a representative of Africa and as part of an African family of nations.’ The government pledged to work with African countries on projects like ‘peace and nation-building, football support and development, environment and tourism, culture and heritage, communication, telecommunication, and continental security cooperation’.
At the 2004 farewell banquet for the Bid team, the then Deputy-President Jacob Zuma predicted economic spin offs for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region which ‘will fit in with our objectives of working for the sustainable development … of our continent. Our victory is therefore the victory of our sister countries as well.’ Zuma added that the tournament would assist in ‘alleviating poverty, creating jobs and generally in social upliftment. Not to mention the … eradication of stereotypes and Afro-pessimism’. African leaders bought into this idea. The 8th Assembly of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa in January 2007 affirmed its commitment to make the World Cup a ‘truly African tournament’. Member states were urged to develop national programmes to implement the 2010 FIFA World Cup Legacy Programme.
A March 2007 workshop of the World Cup Local Organising Committee (LOC), which included members of the AU and South African Government, officially launched an African Legacy Programme. It called for the development of an Africa-wide sports policy to harmonize the free movement of sports persons; use of football for socioeconomic redress; ‘sport for peace’ campaigns; and the development of football as a successful commercial enterprise. A joint media statement was resolute that ‘the 2010 FIFA World Cup is an African World Cup and it is upon all of us to make it a truly African World Cup’.
This essay argues that such claims are hollow on two counts. First, the xenophobic attacks against African immigrants and refugees during 2008 and the government’s tardy response exposed a rabid inward-looking nationalism. The actual benefits to African countries is never clearly spelt out and if post-apartheid history is anything to go by, it will more likely mean providing greater access for South African capital into the continent’s markets. Second, if the World Cup is a platform to confront the progressive underdevelopment of Africa and its football, then the starting point has to be to challenge the very way in which FIFA functions, which the
LOC has failed to do.
Hence the question, does the World Cup mark Africa’s turn or the turn on Africa? We address this by examining a few key issues surrounding the World Cup: the building of stadiums, the commercial benefits for ordinary South Africans, development of football, economic benefits for SADC countries, and the xenophobic attacks on Africans living in South Africa.
Stadiums and infrastructure
The government is spending massive sums on building and renovating football stadiums, with costs rising from an initial estimate of R2.5 billion to R8.4 billion by 2007 (to a projected R10 billion by 2008). Overall, the government pledged R400 billion between 2006 and 2010 for infrastructure development, including upgrading road, air and rail transport. This will not necessarily have long-term economic benefits because much of this infrastructure is geared specifically for the World Cup, and may differ from infrastructure needs related to historic patterns of development and industrialization.
To cite an example, following two train crashes in February 2009 that left 131 people injured, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) blamed under-investment in infrastructure. The union federation issued a statement that when it ‘was opposing the Gautrain we argued that the billions being spent on this prestige project for a rich minority of commuters should rather be spent on upgrading the existing public transport system, which is used by the poor majority’.
The South African Road Federation estimated that the terrible condition of roads was costing the country R200 billion a year due to vehicle damage, accidents and traffic jams which led to higher fuel consumption, lost production hours and higher transport costs.
FIFA has played a heavy hand in deciding on host cities and location of stadiums. The number of cities was reduced from the 13 listed in the Bid to nine, while several stadiums mooted by the LOC were rejected. The Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban will cost an estimated R2.5 billion when the existing rugby stadium across the road could have been upgraded for a fraction of the cost. Bid promoters wanted to refurbish Athlone Stadium, both to reduce cost and because it was located in a historically low income ‘Coloured’ township. A representative was quoted as saying: ‘A billion television viewers don’t want to see shacks and poverty on this scale’. The then ANC-led City and Provincial government capitulated. FIFA’s insistence that the stadium have Table Mountain as its backdrop will come at a cost of at least R2.5 billion.
Ordinary South Africans are being forced to make immediate personal sacrifices. The provincial government of Mpumalanga threatened to reverse a R63 million land claim settlement unless the Matsafeni community surrendered a prime portion of its ancestral land for R1 to build Mpumalanga’s flagship R1 billion stadium. In August 2008, the Pretoria High Court ordered that trustees of the Matsafeni Trust be replaced. Jimmy Mohlala, speaker of the Mpumalanga municipality of Mbombela, was murdered in January 2009, allegedly for exposing these tender irregularities. A report in the Mail and Guardian under the banner headline ‘Pupils burn tyres in protest at World Cup Stadium’ stated that over a thousand pupils demonstrated angrily at the stadium site in Nelspruit when the only two schools in the area were earmarked for demolition to make way for a parking lot.
A small elite is benefiting from infrastructure development. As Alegi has shown, this includes old white construction companies like Group Five and Murray & Roberts, and the new Black elite like Tokyo Sexwale and Bulelani Ngcuka. Image is crucial in the decision to build stadiums. World Cup related capital expenditure is impacting on fiscal reserves and putting pressure on the economy in a context where the masses need jobs and service delivery. Public funds earmarked for basic services for the poorest South Africans are siphoned off into mega projects. This is a classic example of public funds being used for private profit.
Eddie Cottle, coordinator of the Campaign for Decent Work and Beyond 2010, made light of claims that the infrastructure development would create around 100,000 sustainable jobs. On the contrary he stressed that the state would spend the same amount in preparation for the World Cup as it would have spent on the more pressing need of housing over a ten-year period (2000–10). Miloon Kothari, the UN Special Rapporteur for Housing, told Worldpress.org on 30 October 2007 that ‘the promises of the early years are now in reversal … All the progressive judgments have not been implemented, nor has the constitutional regulation and the right to housing in policy been put into practice.’
This neglect has led to increasing service delivery protests and rising inequality. Economist Stephen Gelb argued that funds allocated to stadiums would have built an estimated 90,000 new houses per annum over the period 2006 to 2010. This would have helped in addressing the high levels of homelessness in the country. Gelb called for open discussion on South Africa’s priorities ‘to repair the social fabric and avoid future upheavals’.
Opportunities for ordinary South Africans in FIFA’s corporate game
Soon after assuming the FIFA presidency in 1974, João Havelange met Horst Dassler, CEO of Adidas France, and with marketing guru Patrick Nally, spawned an incredible triangle of the World Cup, growing television market and corporate sponsorship. Out of this relationship flowed the paradigm for major sports sponsorship: only multinational companies (MNCs) with global reach are considered as sponsors; sponsorship and advertising is segmented by product type so that only one company per product (soft drinks, beer and so on) is the official World Cup supplier; FIFA, rather than the host country, has monopoly of television rights, advertising, and stadium space; and finally, FIFA does not negotiate sponsorship directly, but through an intermediary
who provides a guaranteed payment.
Corporatization of the global soccer economy has serious repercussions for the hosting of an ‘African’ World Cup. The Provincial government of KwaZulu-Natal had to backtrack on its World Cup logo which added ‘KwaZulu-Natal’ to ‘2010 FIFA World Cup’ when it was rudely reminded that only accredited agencies were allowed to use World Cup branding and that its logo could not be displayed at the glittering function in Durban on 25 November 2007 when the preliminary draw was made.
This incident reveals in crude fashion the close attention FIFA pays to ensure that it wrings all economic advantage. FIFA’s ‘partners’ for 2010, at a cost of around $125 million each, are Adidas, Sony, Visa, Emirates, Coca Cola and Hyundai-Kia Motors. ‘Local’ sponsors include cellphone giant MTN, First National Bank, Continental Tyres, Castrol, McDonalds, Indian IT company Satyam and South African telecommunication network Telkom. Few ordinary (South) Africans will benefit from what Blatter has described as the most commercially successful tournament ever. In this business model, ‘corporate interests [were] increasingly conflated with the “common” and “national” interests advanced in the nation-building project’ in South Africa.
The much vaunted ‘African’ feel to the World Cup is unlikely to materialize. Women vending food outside soccer stadiums is one of the discerning features of professional soccer matches in South Africa. Mary Silanda is typical of thousands across the country who, ‘on the open space outside the stadium prepare pap, “idombolo” (dumplings), vegetables (chillies, tomatoes, beetroot and cabbage) and also braaied (barbecued) beef and chicken on a gas stove’. Mary is a Soweto mother of four who began travelling across the country from 1998. She arrives at the crack of dawn and leaves long after the fans have left. During a cup final between Kaizer Chiefs and Sundowns in September 2008, she paid almost R200 to travel to Durban by taxi. She was devastated when the match was rained off as she lost R2,000 ‘stock’ instead of making a projected profit of a R1,000. ‘This is the price one pays for taking a risk. I do this for my children. I have to pay their school fees and make sure that they go to bed with something in their stomach.’ Mary could not wait for the replay: ‘I just have to go back home because I left my kids alone.’ The pain of her loss is nothing compared to 2010. ‘When I think of today I get upset because this is what will happen in 2010 but the reasons will be different … It has been clear from the onset that we will not get a slice of the 2010 World Cup.’
International visitors are unlikely to taste Silanda’s ‘pap and vleis’30 as these ‘exclusive zones’ are the monopoly of FIFA. According to another vendor, Sibongile Ndlovu, she was told by the LOC to buy a moving kitchen at a cost of R60,000 to bid for a World Cup food stall. This is beyond Ndlovu and the majority of women like her: ‘Selling outside the stadiums is like a tradition to us which Fifa wants to kill.’ Tim Modise, the then spokesperson for the LOC, said that, ‘inside the stadiums we will have Fifa’s commercial partners, like McDonald’s, operating’. Delia Fischer, FIFA’s media officer, said that those who want to serve food would have to affiliate to a ‘master caterer’. These stories are a metaphor of how the World Cup operates.
While the tournament will be held in Africa, the experience will be ‘Western’. Doors are closed for everyday entrepreneurs hoping to ‘cash-in’. A spat between South African Tourism and Match Events, the company responsible for managing accommodation for the World Cup, became public knowledge in November 2008 when Moeketsi Mosola, chief executive of SA Tourism, announced that they were leaving the advisory board of Match because it was using ‘its powerful position to bully the rest of the industry’ into lowering prices. The Zurich-based Match is a joint venture by professional service companies, Byrom in Britain and Eurotech Global
Sports in Switzerland.
Economic gains are now peddled as ‘after the World Cup’ when South Africa would presumably gain from global exposure. These developments underscore FIFA’s evolution into a massive business enterprise. There are other changes that portend an even greater underdevelopment of the game in Africa.
Football support and development
The LOC, AU and South African government pronounced that the World Cup will lead to ‘football support and development’ in Africa. The African Union declared 2007 the ‘International Year of African Football’ (IYoAF). At the launch of IYoAF on 7 March 2007, South African Minister of Sport, M. Stofile, called for ‘good management skills, sound finance management skills and overall good governance … A better organized football league in each African country is a must. Better performing African teams at home and abroad are a must.’
The economic might of the European football confederation, UEFA, makes many of these declarations hollow. UEFA has built its financial muscle through the cash cow that is the European Champions League and television revenue. Transnational business favours contests between mega-clubs over traditional competition between nations, which are an important expression of national identity but lack economic imperatives. While UEFA has demanded greater voice in how the game is run, to date the fact that the World Cup remains the ‘most powerful single element in the global economic presence of football’ suggests that the ‘non-economic imperatives of national identity have been strong enough to assert themselves within the game’, even though the growing power of European clubs will continue to threaten FIFA.
The best African players are lured to Europe. There were at least 730 Africans plying their trade in Europe at the end of 2007. The flow back is largely in the form of ‘experts’. CAF President Issa Hayatou complained that ‘rich countries import the raw material – talent – and often send their less valuable technicians’. While individual players who ‘make’ it benefit financially, ‘their movement … is part of a wider process which has under-developed African football’. Alvito’s description of the impact of globalization on Brazilian football is instructive: ‘all clubs can do is train talented players … and then consume them as products of the new football industry: t-shirts, video games, televised games and trading cards. This is our piece of the pie of what is globalized football.’ Is this what the South Africa’s ‘state-of-the-art’ facilities will lead to?
Danny Jordaan once called for a more interventionist approach in the governance of global football. Writing before South Africa won the right to host 2010, he argued that Africa should have a greater say in decision-making within FIFA to help forge ‘a different future for the beautiful game and a different world in which people live, work and play’. Jordaan raised the issue of power but there has been a marked silence on his part since becoming the local World Cup boss. The emphasis is wholly on providing infrastructure and maximizing the economic benefits of hosting the game – showing the West that Africa is ‘world class’. It is difficult to imagine the hosting of the World Cup reversing the trend. An added irony is that if the World Cup enhances South Africa’s image as a football country and as an economic power this may attract more African players to the country to the detriment of their domestic leagues.
Economic spin-offs for the Southern African Development Community
South Africa’s post-apartheid economic relationship with Africa has been decidedly one sided. Trade with SADC countries in 1999 amounted to R20.3 billion. Of that, exports were R17.7 billion, an imbalance of 7:1 that rose to 9:1 in 2001, and continues to rise. South African corporations have moved with speed into Uganda, Swaziland, Lesotho, Tanzania and Rwanda, where they are running railroads, managing airports, providing cellphone services, or controlling banks, breweries, supermarkets and hotels.46 The state has got in on the act through the Industrial Development Corporation as well as direct interests in businesses. Accusations of exploitation are not uncommon.
Darlene Miller’s research on Shoprite-Checkers in Zambia paints a picture of apartheid South Africa. One worker spoke on labour conditions: ‘What I can say is that they don’t have feelings about human beings. If they could feel other people’s feelings, I don’t think they could treat us like this … It’s really sad.’ Workers’ perception that South Africa was the net beneficiary was building anger: ‘Even the government is aware that these people, they are just using Zambia as a market just to sell their things and send all their profits to South Africa. So Zambia’s not benefiting from it.’
Racism was rife: ‘The company is part of South Africa but it looks as if the “Boers” are still ruling South Africa … These Boers, they like that system of racialism which they are used to in South Africa.’
The UN Report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo named seven South African companies as culprits. Beauegard Tromp commented that South African businesses have been quick to use Mbeki’s forays into Africa to cut deals ‘sometimes by hook or by crook’. As Sahra Ryklief put it, ‘Mbeki’s African Renaissance is the best thing that has ever happened to South Africa’s (still overwhelmingly white) capital in a long time’. South Africa is taking profits from Africa and leaving behind antagonism. As one Kenyan parliamentarian put it, ‘they bulldoze their way around. It seems like they still have the old attitudes of the old South Africa.’ These developments led Console Tleane of South Africa’s Freedom of Expression Institute, to argue that ‘the relationship that South Africa has with … the continent as a whole is that of self-imposing sub-imperial power which will stop at nothing to exert its influence and extract as many benefits from every relationship that it develops’.
While there is reference to a boost to tourism, stadium improvements, training camps and friendly matches, there is nothing to suggest that South Africa’s long-term economic hegemony will be reversed. In fact it may serve to deepen relationships between old white capital and the new Black elite as they make common cause, Cecil Rhodes-like, in carving an investment path from Cape to Cairo. Finally, we examine the claim that the World Cup will pave the path of peace, nation-building and security cooperation across the continent.
May 2008. A series of xenophobic attacks aimed at African immigrants and refugees left 62 people dead, hundreds injured and thousands displaced. This was a prelude to the sustained attacks on Africans that began on 12 May 2008 in Alexandra and spread to townships across Gauteng and into KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. Sporadic attacks were also reported in Mpumalanga, North West and the Free State. The most horrifying image was that of Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, a 35-year old father of three from Mozambique who was burnt to death. The image of this human fireball drew haunting reminders of necklacing during the apartheid years.
While these were not the first xenophobic incidents in post-apartheid South Africa, the intensity, spread and graphic violence highlighted by the media shocked the nation.
The relationship between football fans and foreign players in South Africa brings into sharp relief the ambivalence of the contemporary world. They are willing to tolerate foreigners in their local football teams but not in their communities. They are torn between pride in ‘their’ foreign players and xenophobia. There are an estimated eighty players from various African countries plying their trade in the PSL. Many have complained of being stereotyped ‘as takers of jobs and resources’. Orlando Pirates’ Zimbabwean striker Gilbert Mushangazike, for example, said: ‘We are heroes when we score goals but we are people’s enemies on the streets. Although I’m here legally, I’m so scared that I’m afraid to walk on the streets or go visit my friends. This whole thing has affected me and many teammates.’ Foreign African footballers are also more vulnerable to police harassment. Leon Prins, CEO of Moroka Swallows, said that Swallows players Mame Niang of Senegal and Henrico Botes of Namibia were ‘routinely intimidated’ by police in Germiston.
The attacks were especially poignant given that 2010 chief Danny Jordaan billed the tournament as ‘a celebration of Africa’s humanity’. ‘Africa’, he said, ‘has too often been a continent of division, of wars, of humiliation’. There were rumours that that the World Cup may be moved elsewhere. Danny Jordaan assured the world that xenophobic attacks would pass by quickly.
Some foreigners are targeted directly because of the World Cup. For example, pressure from Durban City Manager Mike Sutcliffe to ‘clean’ the city before 2010, resulted in municipal police evicting 47 refugees from Albert Park on 1 November 2008. Constable Kwesi Matenjwa explained:
“It is that 2010 (Soccer World Cup) … is around the corner. Because 2010 is going to be here, so the people from the other countries, when they come to this country, they must have this image that South Africa, the city of Durban is clean, that there are no vagrant people, there are no traders in the streets. So that is why people like us are detailed to deal with certain complaints … Yesterday we failed to comply with his instruction. Because yesterday we were supposed to come here and demolish this place. But because yesterday we decided not to do so because of our sympathy, because we are also human beings … we feel for these people … Yesterday at about 9:20 I said to him ‘The people are asleep and they have kids and women that are expecting. How do you say to me ‘you must demolish the place’? That will result in him charging me for failing to obey instructions.”
Across the country harsh steps were taken to force African immigrants out of camps and back to their home countries. According to Lawyers for Human Rights, police methods ‘include removal of identity cards from residents, removing their property including clothes, arresting residents for ‘trespassing’ and then withdrawing the charges after a weekend in detention’.
The xenophobic attacks are part of a longer term pattern that lays bare claims of an African Renaissance. Michael Neocosmos expresses it acutely:
“Since liberation, Africa for South Africans has become the place ‘over there’, the place of the ‘other’, to be acted upon, ‘led’ by politicians, ‘studied’ by academics, ‘developed’ by investors or ‘visited’ by tourists in search of the natural and the authentic. The subjective relations between South Africa and the continent have become quasi-colonial, intensified not only by South African economic dominance, but also by the role of South Africa as bridgehead for Western political liberalism on the continent. Under these circumstances, the slogan of the ‘African Renaissance’ has become simply a vehicle for South African hegemony.”
While the World Cup is portrayed by South African political and football leaders as a catalyst for the invigoration of the economy of the African continent and is billed as an ‘African event’, the experience of African immigrants in South Africa betrays a different reality. Will the World Cup help change perceptions? There are very little indicators that this is the case in the build-up to 2010. Rather the showcasing of South Africa as Africa’s powerhouse is serving to reinforce the country’s exceptionalism and national chauvinism.
Marketing the World Cup as an African event has added to the pressure on organizers to ‘deliver’ not only the myriad of benefits promised to South Africans but also meet the expectations of African countries.
But the global political economy of football makes it difficult to hold an ‘African’ event. FIFA’s World Cup ‘model’ means that most processes are virtually cast in stone. It is a model that allows FIFA to amass a fortune out of television rights, advertising and sales of licensed products. South Africa must fund ‘state-of-the-art’ stadiums, world class accommodation and related infrastructural developments. This has been a challenge for a country haunted by mounting inequality and fiscal constraints. The Gini coefficient, which measures inequality of wealth distribution, rose from 0.62 in 1992 to 0.77 by 2001. According to the 2005/06 Income and Expenditure Survey, the richest 10% of households in South Africa received over half the disposable income; the poorest 40% less than 7%; and the poorest 20% less than 1.5%. The average Black citizen was earning an eighth of his/her white counterpart, an Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) survey found in January 2008. Inequality rose from 0.60 in 2006 to 0.62 on a zero to one scale, on which one represents absolute inequality.
The siphoning of public money is a decision that will have critical long-term developmental consequences.
Danny Jordaan is adamant that the litmus test of the World Cup will be how well South Africans embrace the tournament. ‘We want it to be remembered as the people’s World Cup, where the people celebrate the game’, he said. ‘I don’t think there are any football fans like African football fans, with painted faces, with colourful dress, with song and dance and celebration’. The cheapest tickets will be R150 (at a fixed exchange rate of R7 to US$1). With an unemployment rate estimated between a low of 27% (a definition that includes hunting wild animals and begging as employment) and a high of 40% (a definition that includes those who have given up looking for a job), and with many in employment earning around $150 or less per month it is difficult to imagine many ‘celebrating the game’ by actually going to the stadium.
The issue of accessibility to stadiums is already playing itself out in Mpumalanga province. The first division side Mpumalanga Black Aces has fought a losing battle to play at the flagship stadium. The Mpumalanga Rugby Union had leased the stadium for its Mpumalanga Pumas team, which competes in the national Currie Cup. It agreed to pay the local municipality R150 a month and by 2009 the figure stood at a sum of R580. Aces had access to the stadium in the 2007/08 season. But all this changed, as journalist Lucky Sindane points out, once they reached the final in the Nedbank Cup:
“[T]he team was perceived as rich. That’s when the problems began. The Puma[s] officials raised their fees from R800 to R22,000 a game, ordered the development side to stop training at the stadium and the Aces players were told not to use certain changerooms … Difficult as it is to fathom, this is the discrimination to which Aces have been subjected at the hands of the white dominated rugby club-after 15 years of democracy.”
Sindane went on to note that the Rugby Union are charged R10,000 to use the stadium, effectively cutting off Black schools from access. The danger Sindane points out is that in the aftermath of 2010 as stadiums come up for lease this scenario could once more play itself out. According to Thabo Moroape, the Aces public relations officer is quoted as saying that the rugby Puma’s are ‘eyeing the Mbombela (World Cup) stadium and that will be a blow for us as well as we would like to play our home games there’.
Within South Africa the touted benefits include enhancing South Africa’s international popularity as a destination of choice for tourists and foreign investors, black empowerment, infrastructural development and job creation. Intangible benefits include forging national pride and nurturing the ‘rainbow nation’ identity. It is becoming increasingly clear that claims about the spin-off from the World Cup have been exaggerated. It was touted as a catalyst for uplifting the poor through job creation and attracting longer term investment and tourism. Most jobs are temporary, require limited skills and have been the site of worker protests. The hope of longer term investment and tourism, given the global economic crisis, appears a forlorn gamble. In November 2008 Horst Schmidt, one of FIFA’s top advisers, warned that the 2008 global meltdown could substantially reduce the ‘numbers we expect from abroad’. At the same press conference Danny Jordaan conceded that there was ‘an escalation of costs and it’s difficult times for South Africa’.
FIFA’s model has been a boost for old white capital and the new politically connected black elite who have joined hands in securing lucrative contracts. The ANC-led government and the LOC have done little to challenge the model. The World Cup affords a unique opportunity to confront FIFA. Giulianotti periodises the globalization of football into five stages – ‘germinal’, ‘incipient’, ‘take-off’, ‘struggle for hegemony’ and ‘uncertainty’. The latter ‘involves greater political struggles through ever more complex relations between rising numbers of collective actors such as FIFA, continental bodies, national associations, clubs and sponsors’. Phases are not pre-destined to be progressive. That requires agency in taking cognizance of the prevailing balance of forces. Africa’s relationship with FIFA has been riven with confrontation that successfully forced changes over World Cup representation and the institution of the boycott of South Africa.
Is it not time to organize to challenge the transformation of global football into a form of global apartheid? Will the World Cup provide a platform to confront unequal power relations in global soccer which progressively underdevelop African soccer? African participation in FIFA has illustrated that sport provides an opportunity for raising the banner of the political struggles of oppressed peoples. Can World Cup 2010 prove a catalyst to challenge the way global football is run? And, if so, where will that challenge come from and what will be its central demands?
Joseph Blatter is insistent that, ‘South Africa needs a perfect organization to show the world it is possible to do it here’. For Blatter the World Cup gets reduced to a technical operation. But, as this essay has shown, the World Cup is much more than that. It is also about a particular economic model that serves particular interests and reinforces existing power elations. It is precisely this that FIFA wishes to have removed from the public sphere and which needs to be brought into the public domain.
While the May 2008 xenophobic violence in South Africa illustrates how protests around poverty and inequality can be turned against fellow poor community residents, there have also been powerful social movements that have raised a myriad of issues, from the provision of anti-retrovirals, the lack of adequate housing, to the commodification of water and electricity. It is out of these movements, as Percy Ngonyama argues elsewhere in this volume, that a critical mass of activists could lead this challenge. There are post-apartheid examples to draw upon, most notably the UN sponsored World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) and World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) when thousands took to the streets.
At the beginning of this essay we quoted Thabo Mbeki as wanting to ensure that ‘historians will reflect upon the 2010 World Cup as a moment when Africa stood tall and resolutely turned the tide on centuries of poverty and conflict’. The irony is that Mbeki stands accused of piloting South Africa’s elite transition and its neo-liberal policies that oversaw deepening poverty and inequality in South Africa and a failure to translate the African Renaissance into movement that captured the imagination of the continent.
The examples highlighted in this essay of the way that preparations for the 2010 World Cup have unfolded suggest that it is unlikely to become a platform to confront the progressive underdevelopment of African football. For the tournament to become a catalyst for turning ‘the tide on centuries of poverty and conflict’, then the starting point has to be a change in the very operations of FIFA, rather than the slavish adoption of its modus operandi by organizers. The hosting of the World Cup in South Africa is the perfect opportunity to bring the politics and economics of soccer back into the public domain.
Originally published in Soccer & Society