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The World Cup - Blatter's African Gamble

FIFA’s decision to take the World Cup to the African continent was always viewed as ground breaking. South Africa, of course, was probably the only country on the continent that had an infrastructure anywhere near capable of coping with the millions of visitors expected to attend. The country also has a history of staging major sporting events, like the Rugby World Cup and Lions tours, the African Cup of Nations and last years IPL.

The political implications of taking it to Africa were clearly pythonic, as there is still a sensitivity around the country dating back to the apartheid days. The South African government and FIFA have both done their best at reassuring supporters that safety will not be an issue, but doubts continue to cast a shadow over the tournament.

It's now been revealed that every single game still has tickets available, including the Final itself. Around half a million tickets remain unsold. One of the selling points that Danny Jordan and his team reiterated in their bid was that this World Cup would be accessible to the football fans of their continent, and priced as such. But the cheapest tickets for some games are priced at £14,  while cheap to watch a match in Europe, it is expensive for the locals, who just aren't buying.

Sadly, it now appears that the decision to take the competition to uncharted territory may be one that backfires. No one can doubt that huge obstacles have been put in the way, not least the global downturn in the economy since the South African bid was successful. The terrorist shooting of the Togo side at the African Cup of Nations has raised yet more fears, although the South African authorities have been quick to state that the security in South Africa will be much tighter than it was in Angola.

And since the death of Eugene Terre’Blanche, there have been more concerns that the country will erupt in violence. There have also been strikes and delays in the building of the stadiums, with township dwellers arguing that the money being spent on putting on the World Cup could have been put to better use providing homes and care to those without.

It remains to be seen if this proves to be the festival of football that Africa promised. There is no doubting that FIFA has taken a massive gamble, and at present it looks like the gamble may fail. Let's hope that come July, when the eyes of the world are on South Africa, all the faith that has been bestowed proves to be justified, and the continent can be proud of the first World Cup played on its shores.

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