When Trumpets Fade – The South Africa Legacy

by David Brown

When the final whistle sounded in Soccer City Stadium and the incessant hum of the vuvuzela fell silent signifying the most lucrative World Cup ever had reached it’s ultimate climax; the flights were booked and the exit strategies implemented leaving behind a nation and a continent which had been suckered in by FIFA’s far-reaching promises of social and economic development. The suggestion of a lasting legacy would be put stringently to the test.

FIFA awarded the world’s ultimate footballing showpiece event to South Africa amid strong claims and impassioned beliefs in the long term gains of such a choice. Sepp Blatter claimed that “All of Africa must get the most out of this decision”. 18 months on this is a matter still up for fierce debate.

One such way in which FIFA planned to leave behind a legacy was by proposing the creation of 20 ‘Football For Hope Centres’ across the continent with the proviso that ‘Each will provide a platform for organisations that use the game to address social issues such as children’s rights and education, health, HIV and AIDS and the environment and will leave a legacy for Africa that will last long after the final whistle of the 2010 FIFA World Cup’. Of these proposed 20 centres, 10 are currently built and operational covering countries such as Mali, Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda, Namibia, Ghana and Lesotho and have been met with solid praise and positive publicity. With future plans for centres in Mozambique, Cameroon, Tanzania, Botswana, Cape Verde and Zimbabwe then it can be seen that FIFA’s intentions are strong when it comes to developing these nations. The centres themselves consist of an all-weather pitch, classrooms for education and medical rooms for health screening and treatment for the mass public. They aim to cater for the rehabilitation of children with disabilities and the social advancement of women in society in addition to grass roots participation in football.  This is a major positive to come from the first ever African World Cup.

The expenditure on such a project has been vast but pales in comparison to the overall turnover attributed to the World Cup.  Through sponsorship, TV money and commercial revenue, FIFA’s projected turnover figure stood at £2.1 billion. The money they have spent stands at £800 million compared to the £3.5 billion outlay suffered by South Africa. The vast majority of this has been on building stadia, developing road, rail and transport links and building new hotels.  But what happens after the tourists?  The magnificent stadia sit empty, a hollow shell of their former glory, a ticking time bomb of maintenance fees – the Soccer City pitch alone is costing 70,000 Rand (approx £5500) a year to keep. The showpiece events of  a U2  and a Coldplay concert and the hosting of Kaiser Chief’s home games surely is not enough to sustain such outlay.

When the World Cup was awarded to South Africa the immediate reaction was one of joy that unemployment rates would greatly decrease with the planned construction work and future opportunities within the country.  This was certainly true for a short time but it appears that this may sadly now be back on the increase.  Unemployment in South Africa currently stands at a year average of 25%, having reached nearly 26% in July – this is the highest it has been since January 2006.  It has been well publicised that job creation and tourism fell well short of projected levels and as such, the nation has suffered.

Another of the major concerns of the general population of South Africa was the decision to increase police power in the lead up to the World Cup.  This was considered a recipe for disaster.  Once a level of power is ingrained, it is near impossible to take that away without suffering major repurcussions.  In fear of this, the power of the police remains and is arguably as brutal as it has ever been post apartheid.  Just 2 months after the World Cup Final, 1.3 million public sector workers went on strike to protest working conditions.  These included teachers, civil servenats and other peaceful pillars of the community.  The police response was to quash the protest by shooting the participants with rubber bullets.  Excessive force reminiscant of much darker days in the history of the Rainbow Nation.

In spite of the aforementioned billions ploughed into the coutry to prepare for the World Cup, 15% of the current population stil live in shacks whereas 48% live on less than 322 ZAR (£25) a month.  It poses the question as to whether this was really £3.5 billion well spent by the government.  Former South African President, Thabo Mbeki claimed that the World Cup would be ‘the moment when the African continent turned the tide on centuries of poverty and conflict.’  Sadly this appears not to be the case and as Khadija Sharife of the South African Centre for Civil Society alluded, ‘FIFA’s cup erodes rather than aids South Africa’s economy.’  Inflation has steadily risen from 3.5% in 2010 to 4.3% in mid 2011 and is expected to reach 5.3% by the end of the fiscal year.

The promised legacy to develop Africa and boost African society is blotchy in terms of sporadic Football for Hope Centres dotted around the continent.  South Africa itself has been left with the same, all too familiar social and economic strifes along with empty stadia and failing hotels retired into the dust of FIFA’s whirlwind fly-by in addition to fading memories of a time when the vuvuzela sounded loud and proud and the eyes of the world were fixed upon this proud and beautiful nation.

4 Responses

  1. mintox says:

    There are some tenuous links being made between FIFA, The World Cup and the problems in South Africa.

    You’re suggestions border on implying that FIFA has somehow hoodwinked the South African people with promises of a greater future after hosting the World Cup.

    There was certainly no claims that hosting the world cup would somehow magically solve the problems of unemployment and the number of people who live in ghetto conditions.

    Problems with police power are more to do with government policy than the world cup.

    And it would take a significant level of naivety to think that hosting the cup would leave some sort of lasting decrease in unemployment.

    It’s all well and good to quote rising inflation figures but again, what’s that got to do with the World Cup?

    1. David Brown says:

      FIFA promised a lasting legacy post World Cup. There were promises of reducing unemployment figures, advancing South Africa socially and economically and improving conditions. What I have tried to portray in this piece is that these promises have not been upheld, hence the figures to support this. In terms of police power, this was increased prior to the World Cup taking place so that the homeless could be moved away from public view and the so-called trouble makers locked away to make the country appear more appealing. These powers have not been decreased following the conclusion of the tournament which is why I have referenced this. South Africa are still waiting on a £50 million payment from FIFA promised for education and healthcare. As you correctly say there were no magical promises claiming to solve these issues but there were claims to improve the situation. However, they were merely swept under the rug for a month while the world visited only to resurface and get progressively worse at the end of the tournament. The Athens Olympics have been blamed as one of the reasons that Greece are currently in such a bad financial situation and it is no coincidence that the cost of the World Cup has hurt South Africa. FIFA did claim that a lasting legacy would be felt all over Africa but with such social strife, how can this be the case?

  2. Jamie says:

    did we really expect the world cup money to be used for improving the lives of people in South Africa’s slums? are we that naive?

  3. Jon Owen says:

    It would appear that FIFA have used the world cup as a giant money spinner, who knew they were only interested in making money . . . . ? If they really wanted to help Africa, they could have held it in a modern country and donated any profit to developing the sport, and infrastructure in Africa.

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