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FIFA Casts a Greedy Eye on Africa

October 19, 2003|GRAHAME L. JONES

The scramble for Africa is on again.

This time it's not 19th century European powers carving up the continent, it's FIFA that sees the prospect for unlimited looting and can't wait to get started.

An overstatement? Not at all. Just listen to Danny Jordaan:

"You have to demonstrate to FIFA that, as a business, you have the fundamentals in place for FIFA to generate between $2.7 billion and $3 billion from the event," Jordaan said in Long Beach recently.

That's right, billion.

What he was talking about was the 2010 World Cup and the requirements that FIFA imposes on those countries that wish to stage the event. Of overriding concern to the men from Zurich, Switzerland, who won't step from a limousine unless a red carpet is in place, is the matter of money.

You don't win the World Cup, you buy it. Convince FIFA that it can rake in the riches and the event is yours.

That's one reason Jordaan, chief executive of the South Africa 2010 Bid Company, made sure the presentation he gave in Long Beach was studded with the mention of gold, diamonds and platinum.

South Africa is wealthy, he was saying, South Africa can provide.

Of course, so can other countries. South Africa faces four rivals in its effort to play host to the 32-nation world championship seven years from now. Also in the hunt are Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia.

The Libyans made sure as recently as Friday that FIFA's money-grubbers realize that Tripoli can outspend Johannesburg any time it wants to, no matter how many beggars there are in the streets.

In oil-rich Doha, Qatar, where FIFA's Executive Committee is being wined and dined this weekend, Abdul Maged Bushwesha, general secretary of the Libyan soccer federation, told reporters that Libya was prepared to spend $9 billion in its bid to get the World Cup in 2010.

That's right, billion.

"We have the biggest budget in the history of the World Cup and we hope to be able to host this grand event," Associated Press quoted Bushwesha as saying.

Hope will not be enough. Libya can spend $100 billion and it still will not make any difference. The reason can be summed up in one word: Lockerbie.

The world is not ready for a World Cup in a country that sponsors terrorism -- the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people -- no matter what FIFA thinks.

South Africa's most serious competitor is Morocco, which lost to the United States when it made a bid for 1994; to France when it tried again for 1998, and to Germany when it sought to play host in 2006.

Morocco's bid committee is headed, not surprisingly, by a wealthy industrialist, Saad Kettani, whose family business interests range from insurance, banking and manufacturing to construction, agriculture and fisheries.

He was appointed to the post by King Mohammed, an avid soccer fan.

Morocco has received strong support from Spain in its effort to be chosen by FIFA's 24-man Executive Committee, which will make the final decision in May. But its current bid is undermined by the same problems that caused it to lose the first three bids: lack of stadiums and infrastructure.

Morocco has had more than 15 years to get that sorted out, ever since it launched its initial bid in the mid-1980s. But it hasn't learned one simple lesson: If you don't build it, they won't come.

And the World Cup won't be coming to Morocco in 2010, either.

Egypt and Tunisia have yet to be heard from, but the chances of Egypt's being chosen are slim, considering the tragic turmoil that is the Middle East. Tunisia might be an option in decades to come but can't begin to match South Africa's current and very impressive bid.

Just the Ticket

During his brief appearance in Southern California, Jordaan was asked whether South Africa would try to follow Germany's example and take control of the sale and distribution of tickets itself, should it be selected as 2010 host, rather than allowing FIFA to have control.

Germany, under the guidance of Franz Beckenbauer, was embroiled in a furious fight with FIFA earlier this year before finally prevailing.

FIFA had made a hash of ticketing for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea and the Germans did not want a repeat of that fiasco in 2006.

In one instance in 2002, tickets that were allocated or purchased by a FIFA vice president ended up on the black market. An investigation was promised by FIFA. It either never materialized or its outcome was swept under the red carpet.

Germany fought to prevent a recurrence and now has control. As a result, tickets in 2006 will cost much less and their distribution will, with any luck, create no difficulties.

Jordaan said that South Africa hoped to repeat that success.

"Germany has made a great contribution, as far as making tickets affordable," he said. "The cheapest tickets in Korea/Japan were $50. In Germany, I think they are hovering around $20.

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