It seemed obvious to everyone besides the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) that South Africa was not equipped to handle the 2010 World Cup. Sadly, the country’s detractors were proven correct before the games could even start.
Less than a week before the first official game of the World Cup, during a friendly match between North Korea and Nigeria, a crowd surged against a giant locked gate near the players’ entrance and a riot ensued. After all was said and done the victims included 15 injured fans and South Africa’s credibility as a host.
The scene was what all of those opposed to the location of this year’s tournament had feared would happen. Helicopter propellers roared in the sky, ambulance sirens wailed and the loud scream of the developing mob filled the ears of all those in attendance.
The entire ordeal unfolded more than two and half hours after the game had ended. Unruly fans, frustrated they weren't allowed into a tiny Makhulong Stadium, decided it was time to ruin it for everyone. The actual riot, however, was just a microcosm of everything wrong with the locale.
As the police vehicles tried to move past the craziness and into the heart of the problem, nobody moved out of the way. Despite the chaos on the other end, there was nothing that the South African authorities could do. The ineffectiveness of the police during the proceedings presented one question:
Who is surprised by this?
Really, who was shocked by the fact that the country with one of the highest crime rates in the world had police unable to treat the situation? After all, the violence in Johannesburg is the reason that people there live behind giant gates and walls topped with electric wiring.
Of course, excuses immediately followed the chaotic event.
It was only a friendly match. The facility was not of “FIFA-quality.” There will be more security at the real events. It won’t happen again.
Of course not. The bottom line remains that regardless of who oversaw the event, it was still played between two FIFA teams, in a typical FIFA venue and on the soil of the FIFA World Cup host’s country. The police will still be ineffective in a week when the event starts, just as they always were, just as they always will be.
In the seven years South Africa had to prepare for the World Cup, it did nothing. It would be ridiculous to think it will do anything within the next seven days.
Obviously this is not the first case of chaos erupting in international soccer. The Ivory Coast’s stadium tragedy that left 130 injured and 22 dead before a World Cup qualifier last year had far worse consequences. At least in this case, there were no casualties outside Makhulong Stadium. Still, whenever you start saying “Well at least no one died…” you know you have a problem.
Through the years, several different World Cup host selection processes have been used.
In the beginning, countries generally had unchallenged bids to host the World Cup. Then, starting in 1962, a vote was used to decide who would host the tournament. From 1962 to 1998, The Americas and Europe alternated as World Cup hosts because they were considered the two strongest continents for soccer.
Now, the host country is chosen seven years in advance of the tournament through a vote held by FIFA’s Executive Committee. The country with the most votes is chosen as the host nation for a particular World Cup.
For the 2010 and 2014 World Cup, FIFA brought in a continental rotation policy where the 2010 host would be from Africa, 2014 from South America, and so on. After the upcoming two tournaments, this selection process will be abandoned in favor of a policy where any country can bid to host the World Cup, as long as a country from their continent has not previously hosted ether of the two preceding World Cups.
Thankfully, this means that South Africa cannot bid on another World Cup for the upcoming tournaments.
After the catastrophe at the Ivory Coast, officials researched the mistakes made that led up to the event. Two of the noted factors included a lack of common sense and a failure to learn from past mistakes. By allowing for the World Cup to be hosted by South Africa, FIFA went 0 for 2.
Hopefully, this will be the last negative headline to come out of South Africa for the durations of this year’s tournament.
Probably not, though.