Although deemed a success by FIFA, the Confederations Cup demonstrated that South Africa still has much work to do before next year’s World Cup finals.
By Keir Radnedge
Two conclusions emerged from the 2009 Confederations Cup: one was the mark of 7.5 out of 10 awarded to the organisers by FIFA president Sepp Blatter for preparation work; the second was the Confed Cup is now firmly established in the international calendar as an event with a raison d’être.
Ever since the first such event was held in 1992, in Saudi Arabia, the tournament has appeared little more than an unnecessary and bothersome appendage to an already over-stuffed calendar. Indeed, the death during a match in France, in 2003, of Marc-Vivien Foe pushed the entire event to the brink.
The last desperate attempt to save the tournament was switching it to every four years instead of every two, and slotting it into the schedule as a World Cup rehearsal for the upcoming host nation.
However, this hardly mattered one year ahead of the German hosting in 2006 as no one doubted their ability to produce top-class organisation. The only hitch was the one in the roof of Frankfurt’s Waldstadion that sent a waterfall crashing down onto one corner of the pitch during the Final between Argentina and Brazil.
But South Africa, of course, was always going to be a different story. And the same goes for Brazil in 2013.
Suddenly the Confed Cup has come into its own. Now it is highly important to find out how preparations for the main event are progressing and to assess which logistical problems must be addressed before the world and his fan turn up.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said so, in no uncertain terms, the morning after this year’s Final when he warned: “Transport is an issue and accommodation an ongoing problem…the park-and-ride systems have not worked, media transport has not worked, the signage has not worked. It was not easy for people to get in and out of the stadia. But there is not one single issue for which 11 months is not time enough to solve.”
This why Blatter awarded South Africa marks for effort rather than achievement and his words ran as a cautionary contrast to the euphoric statements issued by local politicians about the state of readiness.
Blatter had deemed the World Cup rehearsal “satisfactorily accomplished”, but added: “We know we will have to work on logistics; we do not intend hiding behind compliments. Next year South Africa is expecting 450,000 visitors specifically for the World Cup, and they will want to follow their teams, so they need to be transported from one venue to another and then back to their accommodation.”