Ticket time!

To those who said it would never happen. It is happening.
To those who were always so desperate for Plan B. Plan A is doing just fine.
To those who think the ball is the wrong shape. Open your minds.

And don’t forget to apply for your tickets, will you?

Around 3m tickets are available for the 64 matches, which start in June 2010. In the first sales phase, applications for tickets will be followed by a random selection draw in April. Some 450,000 cheaper tickets are being reserved for South African residents of which 120,000 will be issued free to stadium construction workers.

Although the tournament does not begin for 475 days, there is already huge excitement about the competition in Africa, says BBC southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles in Johannesburg.

With trembling fingers (fear, nervous excitement, lack of alcohol), I somehow managed to get past the repulsive image of Sepp Blatter on the fifa.com homepage and applied for mine. It’s not as easy as it looks, but it can be done. Sadly, this being a combination of Africa and FIFA, you will need to pay two bribes rather than one. Have your credit card ready.

2010 rip-off

As Sepp Blatter finally told the world that there was no plan B and that there was no way that 2010 World Cup would be held anywhere except South Africa (again), I was out and about, trying my best to fulfil his wish that South Africa must get more involved in and more enthusiastic over the event, now just days away, (albeit 542 of them).

Ever since the 2010 Mascot – a cuddly green-haired leopard called Zakumi, was revealed to the world – I have been trying to find some 2010 merchandise with him on for my young son. And it’s been harder than you might imagine. Official outlets are few and far between and even when you find one, they rarely stock children’s stuff. Good plan, guys. That’s great thinking right there. Nice work.


Zakumi

Today, I finally found what I was looking for. A t-shirt for a 3-4 year old with a picture of Zakumi on.
Yours for just… R190. (£12.70, $19, Zim$168,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).

To me, credit crunch, global financial crisis or whatever, that is an obscene amount of money for a toddler’s t-shirt. Now, I’m not stupid*. I know that as soon as something has a logo on it, the price goes daft. But even Naartjie, South Africa’s premium over-priced kids clothing store can’t match that for a kids t-shirt.  When that happens, you know it’s stupid money time.

As with any event where there is money to be made, I expect to see plenty of knock-offs in the lead up to the tournament. And while I certainly don’t advocate buying fake merchandise, one has to say to FIFA – if you don’t want a black market, don’t create one with outrageous prices like that (you greedy bastards).

* Hush. And stop thinking that.

The 2010 story no one tells

I was delighted to read Luke Alfred’s inspired and inspiring piece on the South African media’s view of the 2010 World Cup in yesterday’s Sunday Times, not least because it neatly sums up a lot of stuff that I’ve been moaning about for ages.

You may have noticed that when it comes to the 2010 Soccer World Cup there is an endlessly circulating merry-go-round of stories, each with its own shape and unique place in the system.
There is the tryingly familiar “stadium budget” story with quotes by ex-deputy minister of finance Jabu Moleketi; there is the “Sepp Blatter mildly reprimands the organising committee” story, and the grotesquely amusing “plan B” story with its many denials.

Interestingly, I note that we are not the only ones to suffer with these stories. The plans for Euro 2012 tournament, to be jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine are plagued with the same issues; who could forget that construction for the Athens 2004 Olympics was miles behind schedule (which we’re not) and they still managed to stage a thoroughly successful event? But it’s one of the duties of the world’s press to find the worst in everything and to sensationalise minor events in order to make mountains out of molehills and sell newspapers. And it’s something that the South African press are especially good at.


Soccer City, Soweto

With sport to some extent replacing nationalism (or being one of the ways in which the nation expresses itself in these post-nationalistic times) the stadiums for the World Cup will express the best of what South Africa has to offer as the century progresses.

They’ll become monuments by which the world recognises this country and by which we define ourselves.
In this sense, debates about what they will cost and how they will be used are profoundly beside the point. Despite the threadbare narratives of the present, stories of striking workers and an underachieving national side, the World Cup will be a pivotal event in the history of post-apartheid South Africa, a time that future generations will look back on with justifiable pride.

So besotted are we with the present that we can’t see it now, but over the long arc of time our children will look back on 2010 and tell their children “I was there”.

Alfred makes a good point, but no-one’s listening. There’s more to life than the present, no matter how tough times may be for many in SA right now. One of the major benefits of 2010, aside from the immediately obvious tourism and sponsorship revenue and its spin-offs is a shared national experience which will generate pride in the country. Our kids have yet to be tainted with the negativity running deep in the veins of the South African media and its followers. And it’s the children’s reaction as they view things with that objective innocence which will be the true marker of the success of the 2010 tournament.

It’s my intention to expose my son to as much of the atmosphere and spectacle as I possibly can.
He’ll be 4 years old and just beginning to form his first “proper” memories and I can think of no better time, place or event for him to remember. It’s going to be an amazing experience. Looking back to my own football-dominated childhood, I can only dream about having experienced a World Cup on my doorstep. (Yes, I was born well after 1966, thank you very much!)

Down the line, my son and I will watch rugby, football, concerts and gladiatorial events possibly involving tigers and pointy sticks at the Green Point Stadium. And while each event will be special in some way, the memories of 2010 that they trigger may never be matched.  

Live webcam feeds of Cape Town stadium site

 

South Africa: Places to visit in 2010

Number 2. Brakpan, a mining town in Gauteng.

The name Brakpan was first used by the British in the 1880s because of a non-perennial lake that would annually dry to become a “brackish pan”.

While in the now defunct uranium mining town named after a dirty lake, you can visit the Gyproc factory, which produces almost a quarter of South Africa’s plasterboard. Alternatively, you can visit the site of the world’s biggest mine dump (higher than the pyramids, nogal!) or just enjoy life as it would have been in a previous age.
An age when people still lived in caves.

For more great places you can’t afford to miss on the South African tourist trail, just follow the TOURISM TIPS category in the sidebar. Suggestions welcome.

Blatter dancing for joy

FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s visit to South Africa to inspect preparations for the World Cup in 2010 appears to be a big success. Despite the unfounded concerns of a vocal minority, all ten stadia are on course to being ready in good time for the tournament. Addressing those sceptics, Blatter said:

They have to admit the stadia will be ready, people will be well received and so on.
What is needed, instead, is a little more enthusiasm in South Africa;
for the whole country to say … yes, let’s go, let’s do it.

It’s about time South Africa got some good publicity from the world’s press over 2010.
However, many of the reports I have read of the FIFA visit have been very keen to mention the political issues dominating our news at the moment and also the crime rate, which they are lining up as their big story of the tournament. I can already see the “FAN MUGGED!” or “TOURIST STABBED!” headlines being readied. Because that sort of thing only ever happens in South Africa. Never in London or Hamburg or Rio. Oh no.

blatt
“When I left the plane and arrived on African soil, I started dancing.”

In addition, much of the stadium construction work is ahead of schedule. Which is better than Athens 2004 or er… Wembley. Is that actually finished yet? I mean – really finished?

Work is ahead slightly ahead of schedule at Durban’s semifinal venue, and at the two stadiums in Johannesburg. FIFA general-secretary Jerome Valcke said that even Beijing’s “Bird Nest” Olympic stadium looked small compared to Soccer City. Even Cape Town’s 3.9 billion rand or $490 million stadium – the most controversial because it is in the middle of prime real estate – is on track.

Now the naysayers and the critics have had their naysaying and criticism, I wonder what they think will happen to the World Cup in 2010? Do they honestly still believe that it’s not coming to SA?
Or is this just now a case of sour grapes?

Live webcam feeds of Cape Town stadium site