Monday, April 30, 2007

South Africa World Cup doubts grow

World Cup 2010.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has increased the doubts surrounding South Africa's ability to host the World Cup in three years' time by admitting the world governing body has back-up countries in place, should the hosts fail to be ready in time.

England, Spain, Japan and the USA are the reserve hosts, according to Blatter in an interview with the BBC, but only "a natural catastrophe" will derail the African World Cup. England and the USA have already announced their intention to bid for the 2018 finals.

Blatter openly backed the South African bid for both 2006 and 2010, and recently referred to it as "a moral obligation", mindful of the continent's votes which got him elected, but only last year he expressed concern that the construction of the ten new or renovated stadia was behind schedule.

CEO of the organising committee Danny Jordaan and South African President Thabo Mbeki both insisted in late 2006 that all was well and that their nation was ahead of Germany at a comparable stage before the finals, but despite the constant assurances, controversy continues to dog the South African hosting.

While the stadium construction issue remains, many observers are repeating concerns about the transport and hotel infrastructure and the perennial Achilles' heel of South Africa, crime.

For now, FIFA & South Africa are steaming ahead, and with Blatter having staked his presidency on an African bid since long ago, it would be a major surprise if South Africa didn't end up hosting the finals, despite all the fears.

Amongst the new arenas under construction is the rebuilt 104,000 capacity Soccer City Stadium near Soweto, Johannesburg, venue for the final in 2010.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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