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A consideration about the next Soccer/Football World Cup in South Africa.

Have you seen or heard of the Confederation Cup in South Africa? If you haven’t, or perhaps you only know vaguely about it, I’ll briefly explain what it is.

One year before the soccer/football World Cup (which is played every 4 years) top soccer/football Nations -and a few from the host Continent- are invited to play in this Tournament, The Confederation Cup.

It’s an official tournament which is very important in its own right, a kind of Half World Cup. However, its real purpose is to check if the following year that Nation is ready to receive more than half million visitors within a few weeks and also, has the organization needed to make it work properly.

That means good stadiums, transportation, airports, stations, freeways, security, hotels and, very important, good participation from the spectators of that country. That means…… people who can buy expensive tickets!

Basically, it is a general rehearsal of the World Cup. And South Africa succeeded in almost all of these aspects!

I used the word ‘almost’ for a very simple reason. Two aspects are not great yet. Security is still so-so. As an example, even if it’s not clear how that happened, the National team of Egypt was robbed in their hotel. But the most evident problem is that the stadiums, apart from the final, and even when South Africa played there, were…………………. half empty! Often, ¾ empty!

I also heard that FIFA was considering giving away any unsold tickets so as not to have that ‘sad’ view of empty stadiums, while top teams in the world like Brazil and Spain were playing. Notice that I didn’t say……… Italy!

This aspect really made me curious and I was thinking………… WHY?

This Cup, and the upcoming World Cup, for the first time in Africa, and particularly in South Africa, is enormously important for that Continent and can deeply influence the future decades of their economy.

While I was contemplating this, I suddenly understood why!

A good friend from England, Neville Shaw, an experienced referee and coach, knowing that besides soccer/football I really like rugby, wrote to me recommending that I watch South Africa play versus the famous ’Lions‘. He also gave me all the information that you’ll read about rugby. The Lions is a Team that represent the whole of Great Britain so, it’s formed by players from the full national teams of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
To play for The Lions’ is a great honor in rugby. It is a fact, that after becoming an international for their own country, to be part of the select group of ‘lions’ is the ultimate ‘accolade’ in their sport.

Before talking about this game, permit me to clarify a point.

In the USA, with the differences between races and living in a multi-racial society, always makes me very careful not to use the wrong words, because whatever you say, it will always offend someone.

I know that while talking about a person with white skin, no one gets offended by saying a ‘white person’ even without using the more proper word “Caucasian“. For the same reason, while talking about a person with a dark skin, I know that it would be better say Afro-American instead of a ’black person‘. In doing this, someone can get offended because in the past this word was used in an offensive way.

So, just having come here 10 years ago and not having anything to do with the past, from now on I’ll refer to people with dark skin as a ’black person’ and to the ones with white skin as a ’white person‘.

Of course, if you want to be offended by this simple and logical simplification, please feel free to do it, but there is no other meaning in my words if not just esthetic. By the way, under that thin skin, our flesh has the same color and also our blood is the same red. So, basically, the great difference is only the color of the ideas in our brains!

Having clarified this fact, I’ll come to the point!

Have you noticed the color of the skin of the soccer/football team of South Africa? There were always, 10 black players and 1 white on the field!!!!

And the South African supporters? 99% were……………..BLACK!!!

So, in South Africa, don’t white people play soccer/football?
Are white people not interested in going to the stadium and seeing their National Team play at a Word Cup level? Their National Team played a great game in the semi-final and almost defeated Brazil! So, why weren’t there any white people?

The question now arises -are white people in South Africa acting in a racist manner regarding supporting their soccer/football team –and maybe this is as a consequence of the fact that their players are basically black?
And is this the reason that they don‘t go to the games?
Knowing a little of history, no one can say no! But, even though that might be a component of this problem -is there a different explanation? Read on.
The real reason is completely different!!

Coming back to what I was saying about rugby, I saw South Africa versus the Lions play at Pretoria in South Africa.

Even if it wasn’t a game for the Rugby World Cup, it was one of the most important tournaments for both countries, as historic rivalries run deep. This Test Series is played between two rugby countries at the top level in the world and considering that South Africa -The Springbok’s- are the current World Champion’s and England the previous World Champions, you can imagine the importance attached to each Test.
Very important indeed …even if to a smaller total world audience than the Soccer/Football Confederation Cup.

But, on the contrary of the Confederation Cup in which the stadiums were a lot more than half empty, for The Lions, the immense stadium in Pretoria, was sold out and you couldn’t find a seat –not even with a recommendation from Nelson Mandela!!! To be correct in the information, I have to say that 25,000 people traveled from Britain to see the game but still, the stadiums is immense and it was full! And the game, even if important, was basically an exhibition. A lot of pride, a great Cup to the winner, but that’s it.

And as if this wasn’t enough, the surprising thing was that in the stands you could see almost only white people!!!

At the Confederation Cup, the soccer/football team was all black with just one white player. With white people, being less than 10% of the population, it’s logical that when selecting a team of 11, just 1 player will be white.

But the rugby team was the opposite!!
All of them were white with just one black!!!

Don’t you find this facts simply unbelievable??? For a simple person like me it is! To better understand the proportion between ‘black’ and ‘white’ I went to this interesting website:

South Africa's population

As you can read there, these are the numbers:

-South Africa is a nation of over 47-million people of diverse origins.
-Africans are in the majority at just over 38-million, making up 79.6% of the total population.
-The white population is estimated at 4.3-million (9.1%),
-The colored population at 4.2-million (8.9%)
-The Indian/Asian population at just short of 1.2-million (2.5%).
-While more than three-quarters of South Africa's population is black African, this category is neither culturally nor linguistically homogenous.
-South Africa's white population descends largely from the colonial immigrants of the late 17th, 18th and 19th centuries - Dutch, German, French Huguenot and British.
-The label "colored" is a contentious one, but still used for people of mixed race descended from slaves brought in from East and central Africa, also the indigenous Khoisan, who lived in the Cape at the time, and indigenous Africans and whites.

So, considering the percentages above, to see in South Africa, only black spectators (filling only half of the stadiums) watching the National soccer/football team play with almost only black players, could be reasonable. But why at a rugby international game, in a sold out stadium filled with just white people, were the players only white with just 1 black?

I’m afraid that at the next World Cup, if FIFA doesn’t give away tons of free tickets to the black African population of South Africa (which is almost 90%!!!), to expect that the white South Africans will go at the stadiums, is just a dream, another of the dreams of Mr. Blatter, not to say nightmares. Please remember that he is the person who proposed eliminating the National anthems before the games so people can’t “boo” them!

That was a great idea President Blatter. So, because white people don’t go to the stadiums in South Africa to see the National Soccer/Football Team, what about eliminating the black players -so no more stadiums being half empty?

By the way, in the full sold out stadium at the rugby game in Pretoria, not a white person was blowing a ’vuvusela’. So, Mr. Blatter, what about also forbidding the vuvuselas?

I know that you already thought about that but, just after a few days, someone made you change your mind so, NOW you say that that is the sound of South Africa.

But, unfortunately, 9% of South Africans (just 4.3 million), the ones that fill up the stadiums on only one condition, that rugby (by white people) is played and not soccer/football, seem to really hate that sound also and that is another reason for them not to go there!

So, President Blatter, could it be that your next idea is: if you come to the stadiums without a vuvusela, you‘ll have a free ticket?

Of course I’m joking but it seems that there will be many empty seats at stadiums and FIFA and Sepp Blatter should be looking at this with some concern. One of the objects of taking the World Cup to South Africa is to take the game to the 'grass roots' there. This ambition is in danger of failing.

To help with this, I would like to suggest that a plan be made to have blocks of tickets available at each venue for all or most games up to the quarter final (at least) -whereby a block of tickets could be reserved for local schools or youth football clubs ( black and white!!!!) and under privileged adults.

Dulcis in fundo, as the Latin said (sweet at the and) the 17 thousand workers who are building the main stadium in which will be played the final stage of the World Cup, are on strike!!! And they are ALL BLACK!

What a surprise! The 4.3 million white people of South Africa like to work in the offices with air condition on, off course!

They seem to have found an agreement about salaries so maybe the stadium will be completed for the dead line of end December. Or not? We’ll see.

coach gianni

P.S. thanks very much to Neville Shaw for his great contribution in sending information about The Lions and in reviewing my so-so English!

Posted on 07 Dec 2009 by coachgianni
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