Oliver Dzuba

On the 14th of June, 2009, South Africa will have the chance to prove all the sceptics wrong, or to the disappointment of Africa, fulfil the expectations of all those who doubt them. This opportunity is the 2009 Confederations Cup, an annual competition that precedes the World Cup by a year. This tournament is in the host country of the next World Cup, in this case, South Africa. The six champions of each FIFA confederation is invited to play (CAF, CONMEBOL, UEFA, AFC, OFC, CONCACAF) as well as the host country and the previous World Cup winners.

South Africa came as a surprise choice to host the World Cup to many, considering the complicated nature and history of the country. With a high crime and poverty rate, some were quick to say FIFA was taking a risk with choosing this country. Nevertheless, even with reports pointing to a failure, FIFA has been consistent with its opinion that South Africa should hold the tournament in 2010.

So what can the world football community learn from the Confederations Cup? Many strengths and weaknesses will be uncovered after this tournament, and everyone shall see if FIFA was right to put so much trust into this troubled country. However, the Confederations Cup will not be as grand and hectic as the World Cup, and we should allow South Africa to make some mistakes. With that said, any faults exposed in South Africa from this tournament should be the priority of both FIFA and the South African government to fix, and fix quickly. So what are we likely to learn?

Is South Africa’s infrastructure adequate for this event?

Almost if not everything about South Africa’s infrastructure will be tested by this event. Airports will be seeing an increased number of travellers, highways will be more congested with traffic, and there will be greater stress on the power grid and water systems. South Africa has hosted events like this before, so this isn’t their greatest concern. But the World Cup is not just another event, and this will add much stress to their infrastructure. This tournament will test it and FIFA officials should take note of the results.


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What about the crime rate? Should travellers be worried?

South Africa was rated 2nd for murders and 1st for rapes and assault by the U.N. This has been a major concern of FIFA and football fans alike. With so many tourists in the country, thieves and pick-pocketers will be hard at work, and in the Confederations Cup we shall see what pre-emptive measures South Africa intend to take. Will they raise police numbers on the street? Or maybe even bring in a military presence? Whatever they do, they will have to it right, as this is a major issue within hosting this event. If they fail on this, they can expect to see a dive in their tourism industry. FIFA is certainly hoping they will take care of all supporters visiting the country and attending the games. A failure to do so will set alarm bells ringing back in Zurich.

Will the stadia be ready in time? Will they be suitable for the World Cup?

This has been one of the more prominent issues facing South Africa. The big question being, will the stadiums be ready in time for the World Cup, and will they be of comparable quality to those which have played host before? South Africa says yes, the critics say no. If South Africa is telling the truth, it will be proven during the Confederations Cup. 

What about their national team? Have they even ever qualified?

The answer to that is yes, they qualified for both the 1998 and 2002 World Cups. There are not many South African footballers who have become household names, and not many of them play in big European leagues. However, the Confederations Cup will provide them with an opportunity to prove they are a team to be reckoned with, and one who could make a splash in 2010. No host country has ever failed to get out of the group stages in a World Cup, and South Africa are desperate to not become the first.

South Africa can use this tournament to prove to the world that they are indeed ready to host the World Cup. Football fans will learn a lot from this, and perhaps when the whistle is blown in the final we will be a little closer to answering those questions which really matter: Is South Africa ready to host the World Cup? Or was it too much too soon for Africa?

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