Will Afcon 2013 be a damp squib?

Will South African fans embrace the coming African Cup of Nations?

As South Africa readies itself for the 2013 African Cup of Nations, a question doing the rounds within the circles of those that care is whether or not the Rainbow Nation will embrace the tournament as they did the 1996 edition and 2010 World Cup?

The simple answer is no.

The local organising committee (LOC) have targeted ticket sales of 500,000 before the tournament begins but at this moment they have sold less than 90,000 tickets to local fans, while approximately 220,000 tickets have been sold to other African countries. While the ticket-sales within Africa itself look rather good, without local support, this tournament is destined to be another Gabon-Equatorial Guinea effort, where turn out last year was abysmal.

From a publicity point of view, there hasn’t been much, if anything at all, within Johannesburg. While I can’t speak for the other host cities, it seems the only major marketing taking place is on SuperSport, the giant South African sports broadcaster, and the media wondering whether there has been any marketing.

However, that does nothing for the LOC, who want people in the stadiums and not on their couches at home. And amid all this, the South African Football Association are embroiled in a match fixing scandal regarding games played before the 2010 World Cup, with the officials reportedly involved (five in all) having now been reinstated after being placed on “special leave”.

SAFA have vowed to not sweep the matter  under the carpet. I wouldn’t hold your breadth.

However, from a facilities and infrastructure perspective, South African is by far the best equipped country in Africa to host a tournament like this. There will be small problems I imagine, from ticketing to parking to scams to traffic, but the major concern is how South African fans march with their feet.  



Bafana Bafana match fixing a crime on a nation

Bernard Parker celebrating a brace in Bafana Bafana’s 2010 2-1 win over Columbia before the World Cup in South Africa. This result, and three others, were fixed

The revelation that four Bafana Bafana matches were fixed before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa has sent shock waves through the corridors of South African sport.

As a result of a Fifa probe which found Bafana Bafana’s matches against Columbia, Guatamala, Thailand and Bulgaria in 2010 to have fixed, the president of the South African Football Association (Safa) Kirsten Nematandari, it’s new CEO Dennis Mumble and three others have been suspended.

The Fifa investigation found that Safa had been infiltrated by convicted match-fixer Wilson Perumal and his Football 4U organisation.

Perumal organised referees for the four friendly games, which South Africa won through a spate of penalties and odd decisions. The results reportedly benefited betting syndicates in Asia.

Safa have accepted the report and will institute a commission of inquiry. Whatever the outcome, the match-fixing is shame and a crime against the people of South Africa, whose mood became the plaything of gamblers.

South Africa were desperate for positive results before the 2010 World Cup, and for Safa to stoop so low marks the latest and worst failure by an organisation that has a well earned reputation for administrative incompetency.

Not since cricket’s Hansie Cronje-scandal over a decade ago has South Africa’s hopes and dreams on the sports field been so emphatically extinguished by the dark reality of greed and corruption.

One of the few places this complicated country feels together, as one or as close to it as possible, is on the sports field. As such, that holy place between the sidelines has been sullied once more. Will South African soccer fans forever more be asking the question after a positive result: “Was it fixed?”

If the Cronje-scandal taught us anything, it was that soccer will more or less recover.
However, the loss of innocence regarding the Rainbow Nation’s attitude to the sporting world is now complete, if it wasn’t already.

There is no such thing as a victim-less crime.