The Soccer World Cup Preliminary Draw at Durban’s International Conference Centre (ICC), together with the rivetting match at the Absa Stadium between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, proved to be an excellent showpiece and prelude for the real thing in 2010. “It is the kick-off. It is the window of South Africa that is opening to the world,” said Fifa president, Sepp Blatter. The ICC event was televised around the world, as was the soccer match where the international visitors were treated to the immense local enthusiasm for the game emanating from a packed stadium.
The sceptics will continue to keep an eye out for glitches, whether in the construction of the new stadia or in the criminal events that keep occurring, such as the murder of an Austrian tourist on a southern KwaZulu-Natal golf course on the weekend. In addition, there is the legitimate concern about the budget for the 2010 event, which at R20 billion is already beyond original expectations.
Yet it needs to be ackowledged that the process towards 2010 is going well. The spin-off benefits in terms of job creation and lasting improvements in infrastructure, such as for roads and transport, should be considerable. Good news for local football fans is the decision to sell tickets at a reduced price to South African spectators, although R140 is still hardly cheap. Given its massive scale and complexity, the event cannot expect to be flawless but the signs are that it will be a resounding success.