World Cup looks good for Africa, apart from on the pitch
LONDON (Reuters) - Everything is on course for a wonderful first World Cup in Africa, apart from on the pitch where the continent's teams continue to struggle at the top level, the local head of the 2010 tournament said.
Danny Jordaan, chief of the South African event's organising committee, said stadium development was on schedule, sponsorship and TV rights income was already guaranteed to surpass that of 2006 and tourism in the country continued to grow despite one of the world's highest crime rates.
However, he conceded that African nations were failing to establish any consistency of playing performance and that action was needed to ensure a local presence in the latter stages of the first World Cup to be held on African soil.
"We have two completion dates. By December 2008 we will have the five stadia we need for the (2009) Confederations Cup -- four of those are ready today," Jordaan told a briefing at the South African High Commission in London.
"Then we have to build the new stadiums by October 2009. If we complete all the stadiums on the time we will be the first country to have done so.
"Remember the paint was still wet for the Athens Olympics while the new Wembley here was not without problems.
"Yes we have crime, there are challenges, but our ability to safeguard all of our visitors coming to our major events has been tested over last 13 years and there has not been a single incident and tourist figures have grown every year."
Jordaan said the 2010 tournament had already secured $3.2 million (1.6 million pounds) worth of sponsorship, compared to the $2.8 million for the 2006 event in Germany, while the TV rights had surpassed the $1 billion of last year's tournament.
He added that, inspired by the success of Germany's fan parks, 2010 organisers planned to expand the concept not only to non-hosting cities in South Africa but had asked FIFA to investigate the possibility of allowing cities all over the world, and particularly throughout Africa, to set up "unofficial" fan parks.
However, when it came to a discussion about African prospects of success on the pitch in three years' time, Jordaan was less effusive.
Spotlighting teams who have done well in the Olympics and African Nations Cup but failed to make an impact at the World Cup, where only Cameroon (1990) and Senegal (2002) have reached the quarter-finals, Jordaan highlighted the difference in support structures.
"In an analysis of the kinds of technical, medical and scientific support available for the best teams in the world against African teams, there is a huge gap," he said.
"They have physios, dieticians, doctors and so on ... it's not just running on to the field and playing.
"Very often you find African players have recurring injuries because of inappropriate treatment. It is an area we have to look at and in November we have a medical conference focusing on medical support for African teams."
South Africa, struggling internationally since their peak in the mid-1990s, have followed many of the continental partners by employing a foreign coach -- Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira -- but Jordaan said he felt that trend was one of the reasons for the teams' failures.
Quoting a "professor of football" he met in Cuba, Jordaan said: "He told me 'You cannot beat anyone who you admire, who you have as an idol'.
"'You have to find your own heroes. When a team stands there with hands on heart and sings the national anthem and the coach can't sing it, the players know.'
"These are the sort of issues we need to probe."
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