Wed Jun 24, 2015 5:51AM
This picture, taken on July 4, 2010, at the opening ceremony of the “Football For Hope” in Alexandra Township near Johannesburg shows South African President Jacob Zuma (R) shaking hands with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. (© AFP)
This picture, taken on July 4, 2010, at the opening ceremony of the “Football For Hope” in Alexandra Township near Johannesburg shows South African President Jacob Zuma (R) shaking hands with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. (© AFP)
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South Africans are accused of paying a $10-million bribe in its campaign to host the 2010 World Cup. But they claim Western powerbrokers are attacking FIFA and Sepp Blatter because they oppose his policy of taking football’s biggest prize taken to Africa and developing nations on other continents. Are they right?

When South Africa bid to host the World Cup, its then President Thabo Mbeki said, “We want to ensure that one day historians will reflect upon the 2010 World Cup as a moment when Africa stood tall and resolutely turned the tide on centuries of poverty and conflict... We want to show that Africa’s time has come.”

Despite the pessimism from the Western media, South Africa staged a tournament that confounded the skeptics and generated over $65 million for legacy projects in the country.

Five years on, however, the country’s political and football leaders have been caught up in FIFA’s biggest ever scandal, with claims that their football association paid a $10-million bribe to win Caribbean votes for their bid.

It’s also been alleged that Morocco really won the vote for the 2010 World Cup. But the South Africans are fighting back. Not only do they deny the charges, they say the campaign against Sepp Blatter and FIFA is political.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula says, “Sepp Blatter has been a good friend of South Africa. He played a major role in terms of shifting the world focus on Africa... He’s the president of FIFA who delivered it. History will remember him for that.”

What galls South Africans in particular and African football activists in general is the fact that this campaign is being driven by the US and UEFA, who object to FIFA’s drive to shift the balance of power in world football.

After South Africa came Brazil, then Russia, Qatar, and now the FBI! But some Africans say FIFA’s promise of a great legacy for South Africa was unfulfilled, and that it’s not just FIFA, but also African football federations that need reform, so they benefit the millions of poor people who play at the grassroots. We will investigate.