The downside of the Soccer World Cup games

Currently nothing happens on this planet - except for the Soccer World Cup games in South Africa. At least, if we are to believe the South African press. So it's time for another Soccer World Cup update! The party is in full swing, vuvuzela's won't be banned and everyone is happy. Right?


The first cracks are beginning to appear in South Africa's official image of soccer success. Security staff in at least four stadiums are  on strike and demand higher wages. In accordance with tradition in South Africa, such a strike comes with considerable mayhem; blocking roads and emptying rubbish bins into the streets is part of the fun. In Durban a few platoons of riot police joined in, with tear gas and rubber bullets, which contributed to the festivities no end. Security in the stadiums has now hastily been taken over by the local constabulary. Security staff has been sent home, but on their way there they found the time to pause and set fire to their employers' offices.. Today more protests followed as 3000 people marched in Durban to protest the Soccer World Cup spending, and its negative impact on their livelihoods. One protester has been killed.

National electricity supplier Eskom is gearing up for a strike as well. Trade unions believe that this is a good time to demand an 18% wage increase and if they don't see money soon the lights in South Africa may very well go off. And heaters, too, while this winter in South Africa is unusually chilly.

The bus strike has been resolved, but not before whole bus loads of soccer fans on their way to a match were dumped by the side of the road rather than delivered at the stadiums. Transport is a problem anyway. Although FIFA has released huge quantities of "category 4" tickets (at prices starting at R20, which is about 2 Euro's) in order to fill up the stadiums at any cost, there are still huge empty spaces during many matches. FiFA blames distribution problems and wholesalers who have made off with large numbers of (unsold) tickets, which in part is true, but everyone knows that large numbers of fans were not delivered to the stadiums until well after the matches.

South Africa is also waking up to the fact that the Soccer World Cup won't net South Africa one cent. The heaps of gold that wre promised turn out not to exist (now there's a shocker!) and most of the revenues are going straight to FIFA in any case. Of ourse FIFA (a non-profit organisation) did demand free hotels, hospital reservations and a tax exemption. Meanwhile accounting company  Grant Thornton has calculated, on the back of a napkin, what we all have known for a long time: of the $5.5 billion that were spent on new stadiums, we won't see more then about $1.7 billion returned. Meanwhile nobody has any idea what these expensive stadiums will be used for after the games are over, and the Institute for Security Studies points out that even the money spent on the Cape Town stadium alone could have housed about a quarter million people who currently live in corrugated iron shacks. Incidentally, the Cape Town stadium was built when FIFA decided that a renovation of the existing stadium was not good enough.

Meanwhile 36 Dutch fans have been arrested and detained for wearing dresses sporting the Bavaria beer logo, and told that they faced a possible 6 months imprisonment. Today two more arrests were made in Roodepoort. "These women, who have been part of a larger group, are suspected to be involved in organised acts to conduct unlawful commercial activities," police spokesman Col. Vishnu Naidoo said in a statement. The two women have been released for now, but (as is usually the case with serious criminals like these) they had to pay R10,000 bail each, and surrender their passports. They may not leave South Africa until their case is brought to court.

Now the scary part is that any transgression of FIFA marketing rules has been made into a criminal offence in response to FIFA's demand that the South African government do so. Yes, Sepp Blatter rules the nation - in a very literal sense.


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