Imagine you run a football association. Your country has qualified for the African Nations once, and that was way back in 1980. You have a smart, ambitious coach who has built a good team which has a decent chance of doing well in the next round of African Nations qualifiers but the local league remains poor and youth development is non-existent.
Now imagine you have “several million dollars” to spend.
Do you a) spend it on the league, putting money into clubs so that they can pay players, develop fresh talent and train their coaches?
Or b) hand it over to Brazil so that they agree to come to Dar es Salaam and beat you in a meaningless World Cup warm-up match?
Of all the matches at the World Cup, South Korea against Greece is arguably the least exciting prospect. But it is the match that will mean the most for Danny Jordaan, the man responsible for organising the tournament. It is the first to take place at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, the city Jordaan grew up in. Under apartheid rules, the stadium was split into areas for different races. The VIP seats in the main stand, where Jordaan will take his seat on 12th June, were reserved for whites.
“To sit in an area that was previously for whites only is an indication of the road we have travelled,” he smiles. An indication too, of the personal road that Jordaan has travelled. “From being excluded to being the organiser of the biggest event on Earth is just something special.”
From my profile of Danny Jordaan in last weekend’s Independent on Sunday magazine. I’d post a link to the whole piece but it doesn’t seem to be online.
No African team has ever won the World Cup but in 1996 Nigeria became the first to win a major international competition, beating Argentina in the final of the Atlanta Olympics. The semi-final against Brazil was probably the better match though.
With 12 minutes to go Brazil were 3-1 up and should have been out of sight. A side featuring Rivaldo, Juninho, Bebebto and Ronaldo had torn apart the Nigerian defence but missed several good chances in the second half. Victor Ikpeba pulled one back in the 78th minute before Nwankwo Kanu equalised in injury time. The ‘golden’ rule’ rule meant that the first team to score in extra-time would win – and Kanu scored the crucial goal four minutes after the restart.
The only footage I can find on YouTube is from Brazilian TV. The match highlights start after one minute, just after the forlorn-looking presenter utters the word “desastre”.
McDonald Mariga (at the back, just to the left of the trophy) may not have played but at least he got in the all-important celebration photo (Photo: Getty Images)
One Shame that McDonald Mariga didn’t get on. Hopefully next year he can force his way into the Inter first team.
Two Is Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o the first African to win the Champions League with two different clubs? Barca’s decision to swap him for Zlatan Ibrahimovic (plus €46m) has to be one of the worst transfer decisions in recent history.
Not all South Africans have been supportive of the decision to grant their country the right to host next month’s World Cup. This advert for FNB, a major South African bank, aired in 2006.
The fiercest criticism has come from white South Africans, something this advert directly addresses. Note how the white critic says “they” want to host the World Cup.
That sort of attitude has changed a lot over the past four years. Football has traditionally been seen as a black sport in South Africa but the crowds at last year’s Confederations Cup were noticeably more mixed than in the past. Let’s hope the same can be said for the World Cup.
I was on BBC Radio 4′s Today earlier this morning, just after a debate about Israel and Iran and just before a discussion about the British election. John Humphrys, who normally takes great pleasure in eating his interviewees for breakfast, was rather kinder with me.