South Africa’s World Cup – why it can’t fix everything

David Whitley June 3, 2010 Comments Off on South Africa’s World Cup – why it can’t fix everything

‘The World Cup won’t help us’

This morning, I flicked over to the Guardian website to be met with a headline that is becoming all too common. Above a picture of black South Africans comes a cry of “The World Cup won’t help us”. The story then goes on to talk to lots of poor South Africans who fear that the World Cup won’t have a positive impact on their lives.


Attitude towards World Cup

This is really starting to piss me off. There seems to be an increasingly sneering attitude towards the first World Cup ever to be held in Africa, and a bizarre expectation that it should ensure the country suddenly turns into a utopia where no-one goes hungry and everyone has a nice suburban house.


Catch-all panacea


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In the eyes of some commentators, the World Cup should be a catch-all panacea for deep-rooted social problems. Unless it gets everyone out of township shacks, reduces crime to zero, puts every victim of the old Apartheid system in a nice job with a private parking space and cures AIDS, the World Cup is a scandalous failure.


What is the World Cup?

For God’s sake, chaps – enough with the shrieking, pious hysterics. IT’S A FOOTBALL TOURNAMENT. It can’t fix everything, and it’s not supposed to. Isn’t it enough that it’s undoubtedly doing some good for some of South Africa’s most underprivileged citizens?


South Africa visit

I went out to South Africa in January, and can assure you that there are numerous football-related projects that are bringing hope, education, money and even tourism into some of the country’s most deprived communities. I wrote about one such scheme for Vtravelled, but there are many more. And FIFA sponsors numerous projects throughout the country.


Cape Town Tourism press release

Interestingly, it’s not just me that is riled by this witch hunt. In May, Cape Town Tourism released a very unusual press release. Sick of the numerous stories about how footballers and visitors will be living it up while the poor people in the townships struggle, Cape Town Tourism lashed out. The headline on the release? 2010 FIFA World Cup was never pledged as a solution to all social-economic problems.


Doing some good

Good on them. It needed saying. It’s a sad state of affairs when a genuinely historic sports tournament is lambasted before it has even started, simply because some people won’t see a direct, immediate benefit from it. You know what, the London Olympics probably won’t turn a council estate in Croydon into an idyllic paradise either. And I sincerely doubt that the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand next year will allow everyone in South Auckland to go out and buy Armani suits. To the sniping critics, I ask this: is just doing some good not enough?



Grumpy Traveller recommended read


For an excellent backgrounder on South Africa’s early history – and how the seeds for the country’s current problems were first sown – get hold of Martin Meredith’s Diamonds, Gold and War. I read it whilst in South Africa, and found it to be an absorbing, thoroughly eye-opening insight into the personalities, greed and disgusting crimes of South Africa’s colonial era.

If you buy through these Amazon UK or Amazon US links, I earn a small commission. As always, however, I recommend the book irrespective of how you buy it.


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