SOUTH African football is about to receive a once-in-a-lifetime windfall because this country has hosted one of the most financially successful World Cups ever.
As much as US $200 million – some R2 billion – will be paid to the local federation by Fifa.
The South African public has paid — via taxes — for the infrastructure that made this windfall possible and any money made out of the tournament ought to spent on developing the game on behalf of the public.
There are reasonable fears that this money might, like so many cash injections before it, not find its way to the development of the beautiful game in South Africa.
We should take a leaf out of the US book and turn this windfall into the engine that grows our competitive potential.
The US placed the money it was paid after hosting the cup in 1994 into an independently administered trust that has focussed on developing the game over the last 16 years.
In 1990, it qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 40 years. “Since then it has risen to the top of CONCACAF — its regional association — qualified for six consecutive World Cups, established a league and exported players to European first division clubs, writes Michael Lewis in a fascinating account of that country’s development programme.
The goal was to vastly increase formal competitive participation in the sport feeding an increasingly competitive national side.
The money has also notably been used to develop the US women’s football team into a formidable global force.
That the US yesterday played Ghana in the second round of World Cup 2010 is in no small part due to this prudent investment in growing the game.
South Africa could easily do the same by creating an independently administered trust which accounts to the public for every cent of its expenditure.
The certainty that their money would go directly to development and not into ridiculous “bonus” payments for football’s fat cats, would encourage local businesses to contribute to the trust.
The fact is that the World Cup has captured the South African imagination and every child wants to play the game.
If we don’t invest in playing fields, coaches and formal training programmes, these youngsters will not be developed into the winning generation of players that we need to build our national sport.
But there are real obstacles to what would seem to be a simple, straightforward proposal which enjoys the support of several senior administrators.
The first is the parlous state of local soccer administration which appears to spend a disproportionate amount of its time discussing what size bonuses to award itself.
Although there were signs of a revival under the new boss, Kirsten Nematandani, it is highly likely that Safa will resist the idea of placing control of our World Cup windfall in independent hands.
But the public must demand this. It’s time this country got the football development it deserves.
The World Cup organisers have done the right thing and fired guards belonging to Stallion Security who went on strike, threatening the security of Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Afterwards, the fired guards were astonished. Said Gugu Dlamini: “It is sad that they have fired us. I thought that they would allow us to continue working.” This remark is pathetic. Did Dlamini think that jeopardising a major national event for the country over some opaque wage dispute would result in no consequences?
Well, on second thoughts, perhaps she did. It is after all a fine South African tradition to allow workers to strike – even burn rail cars and physically harm others – without consequences.
For once, workers have been given their just deserts and chucked out for their irresponsible actions.
This incident and the decision by bus drivers for the BRT in Johannesburg to strike half way through a match leaving spectators stranded without transport puts South Africa’s great weakness on display.
Our strength is our people. They are kind, welcoming and love their country to bits.
But our weakness is also our people. They are greedy, selfish and couldn’t care about the national interest if there’s a fast buck to be made.
SOUTH Africa stands on the edge of greatness. On the 27th of April, 1994, we rejoined the world of free nations when we pulled off the most spectacular feat of political transformation.
After centuries of oppression, black South Africans enjoyed the same political rights as whites and the great Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president.
We took the world’s breath away and generated the sort of goodwill and empathy that most nations will never see.
Since then we have struggled with new problems. Our constitution brought into being powerful guarantors of our democracy and opened unprecedented space for free expression.
But there are loud voices who would like to reduce media freedom and the independence of the judiciary so that they can loot this country’s wealth without the discomfort of scrutiny.
Our leadership has failed to stop corruption and many of those sentenced for graft now find themselves occupying seats of power in the ruling party and government.
Through all of these travails, the people of South Africa have remained unwavering in their support for a free open society and implacably opposed to those who seek racial exclusion, unfair economic competition and the erosion of human rights.
The people are always way ahead of the politicians and they have shown us time and time again that they believe in a united, non-racial South Africa. More than that, they want to be part of a winning nation.
There are several memorable days on which they have done so.
Perhaps the most significant was 24 June 1995 when Nelson Mandela donned the green and gold of the Springboks and South Africa celebrated victory in the rugby world cup. Joel Stransky’s drop goal remains one of sports all-time greatest match-winning achievements.
Then there was 3 February 1996 when the nation watched in awe as Bafana Bafana stunned the continent took the African Cup of Nations. Who could forget the two goals scored by Mark Williams?
Just last week, on Saturday 29 March, Soweto’s Orlando stadium produced another of those moments as the Blue Bulls beat the Stormers as the nation watched.
But perhaps Friday June 11, just five days from now, will eclipse all of those dates as Bafana take on Mexico in the opening game of the football World Cup.
For this will be so much more than a sporting event. It is gleaming evidence that we are a deserving member of the global community of nations.
We have built, we have organised, we have put on our yellow shirts, we have decorated our houses, our places of work and the whole country with the flags of the world.
We know that our coach and our great football team, Bafana Bafana, have prepared with discipline, dedication and belief. Now is the time to shine.
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Moeneeb Josephs (Orlando Pirates), Shu-Aib Walters (Maritzburg United), .
Defenders: Matthew Booth, Siboniso Gaxa (Mamelodi Sundowns), Bongani Khumalo (SuperSport United), Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa, Israel), Aaron Mokoena (Portsmouth, England), Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk, Belgium), Siyabonga Sangweni (Golden Arrows), Lucas Thwala (Pirates).
Midfielders: Surprise Moriri, Lance Davids (Ajax Cape Town), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Fulham, England), Teko Modise (Pirates), Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siphiwe Tshabalala (both Kaizer Chiefs), Steven Pienaar (Everton, England), Macbeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan, Russia), Thanduyise Khuboni (Golden Arrows).
Strikers: Katlego Mphela (Sundowns), Siyabonga Nomvethe (Moroka Swallows), Bernard Parker (FC Twente, Holland).