You are in all likelihood one of the nearly 3 billion people who watched and enjoyed the South African 2010 World Cup. You are also probably amongst the majority of fans who are unaware of its real cost.
After the magic of the South African 2010 World Cup, South Africans did not get the expected 5.5 billion Euro boost to the economy. Nor is the promised creation of 415,000 jobs a reality. Joseph S. Blatter, the CEO of FIFA promised that “the World Cup will benefit the whole African continent” and that “it will boost the economy”.
FIFA’s promises have not translated into reality, leaving South Africa with enormous debts.
In the hope of change, developing countries are more willing to go to enormous costs to host the Worls Cup, especially compared to developed host countries.
France’s World Cup in 1998 cost approximately 1.6 billion Euro, whereas South Africa spent the enormous amount of 4 billion Euro. World Cups are very profitable for FIFA, especially in developing countries.
The South African government undertook a vast effort for the occasion. Oversized infrastructure such as stadiums, roads and airports were built or renovated. The 3.4 billion Euro spent by the South African government on these massive infrastructure projects was, in part, initially allocated to the construction of housing to accommodate around 25, 000 people in the city of Johannesburg.
In light of this massive expenditure, it would not be surprising if South Africans are left asking why and how the government has succeeded in completing the building of new stadiums, whilst still pleading financial constraints when it is time to deliver basic services?
The truth is that the main motivation for the 2010 World Cup was to provide the elite with opportunities for self-enrichment.
It was also a diversion to the many unresolved debates within South African society, such as: the national housing crisis, permanent unemployment, the enormous gap between rich and poor, legitimacy and transparency of the government.
Unsurprisingly, this World Cup has served more as an excuse to not address these issues. Sadly, political corruption is at the fore.
To comply with the drastic conditions imposed by the Federation, poor areas were cleared and the government expelled thousands of people from Cape Town to beautify the city.
If misery is bad for business then why choose a country mired in poverty with 20 million poor people, where shanty towns and homelessness are part of the frame?
FIFA was responsible for providing the entertainment while South Africa provided all the infrastructure and services. FIFA keeps the television rights and sponsorship income: the host country pays the bills for an event from which it can see almost no benefits. Of the 100 000 jobs created over the 5 years leading up to the event most have now disappeared.
To organise a World Cup, it is necessary to accept the FIFA package which covers marketing rights, intellectual property, security and transportation.
FIFA reserves the surroundings of stadiums for its sponsors, such as Adidas, Coca Cola, McDonalds and Budweiser, who sell the official products while local salespeople are chased away by the police.
Those outflows are the reason for the rise in South Africa’s foreign debts to more than 80 billion dollars. Ironically, the 3.2 billion Euro earned by the FIFA will finance 95% of its operating budget for another four years. Thus the promise that such an event would boost the local economy is an absolute illusion.
The reality is the nationalisation of the losses and the privatisation of the profits.
Moreover, FIFA used its fatal top-down approach to ban all kind of marches and gatherings during the time of the tournament, ignoring the constitutional rights of local people.
Local journalists who had FIFA accreditation faced being unfairly banned if they dared throwing the World Cup into disrepute.
In this context, it is obvious that South Africa had no power in the World Cup; it has been shamelessly used by the FIFA to serve its interests. Stealing money from the poor to increase “foot business” does not seem to be a concern for FIFA. In a certain way there is a sense of déjà vu, where football and its representative (FIFA) continue the old colonial relationships.
Let me make clear - I am not against football. On the contrary I have been raised with it; my father was a Franco - Camerounese professional player in France. I do recognise the benefits that football can bring to a nation and even more so to developing nations.
To borrow from Sergio Leone’s classic western: the “Good” is undoubtedly the host country citizens who made the games possible by their hard work; the “Bad” is the South African government which took advantage of its people;the “Ugly” is FIFA for its culture of corruption and its tendency to take over host countries’ sovereignty.