From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Reflecting On South Africa 2010 World Cup
By Rodney Edmond Michael
Jul 2, 2010, 17:04

It is by now public knowledge that South Africa 2010 is the first time Sierra Leone has been officially represented by Sports Writers. It is also a truism that it is the first time we have been allocated World Cup tickets officially that has been available for Sierra Leoneans to witness the World Cup. Regrettably, many of our brothers intending to travel to the Competition struggled with either Visa or flight/accommodation difficulties from home to The Rainbow Nation.

It has not been all doom and gloom because at least three sports journalists have had the opportunities to watch the best footballers in the world, observe how press conferences are held and learn from others from a more advance world how efficient and professional Sports Writers and Photographers can be. It is an experience that can only improve their performance and inspire them to understand how vital their role and responsibilities are in the development of the game, which I trust they will share with their colleagues.

The Football family is also represented by Sanuski Kargbo, Vice Chairman Lions F.C. and I. We have been located at Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth (birth-place of Nelson Mandela) since the 21st June and the opportunity is a worthwhile experience despite the difficulties surrounding the World Cup.

It has been declared that The African World Cup is already a success but is it truly successful? I will endeavor to share my experience and that of those we came across and let readersí back home judge.

South Africa is considered the most advance country in Africa but as discovered by everyone visiting it lacks adequate accommodation facilities which have forced thousands of fans following their teams to sleep on the streets or in the night clubs. In Port Elizabeth (P.E.) we have noticed that fans now use their cars as beds and use public facilities to wash their faces whilst following their teams from one City to another. This is done not because they want to economize but for the fact that there are not enough accommodation and those available have been exorbitantly increased to capitalize on what South Africans believe is an opportunity of a lifetime to make money.

There are limited public transportation options and every time there is a match, all Inter City Bus Services and Flights are fully booked and it denies fans the opportunity to watch a match in one city and travel the next day to watch another match. South Africa is massive and a trip by car from Johannesburg to Cape Town is 18 hours whilst most Inter City trips are about 6-10 hours. Thousands of fans are still puzzled as to why additional flights were not provided to ease traveling from one state to the other and most of the attention has been concentrated on Johannesburg as if that is where all foreign fans will settle.

This has been the major cause for poor crowd attendance and every single game outside Johannesburg has not enjoyed full capacity. England Vs Slovenia for example had less than 70% attendance whilst Germany vs England could not enjoy more than 80 % capacity crowd when such encounters in previous World Cups would have had a full capacity with equally as much watching from public parks.

The cost of the World Cup has also been a thorny issue and many fans of the big teams still in the competition have been forced to return home. As feared since the award of the World Cup, flight costs were increased considerably and local transport services made unaffordable to so many. What I paid in Johannesburg in March for a single room when I first visited is now three fold because of the World Cup.

However, the security has been handled very efficiently and the police are parading the streets throughout the day and night and never once have we had cause to be scared. South Africa has suddenly become a very safe Nation and this has been a major relief to the vast majority of its Citizens who have now hailed the World Cup as a Peace Cup for them.

In addition to the security success, South Africans have suddenly become ardent and religious followers of football, with Cricket and Rugby taking back stage for now. The Mayors of every city have ensured that South Africans put up a good image and whether it is false pretence or not, they have succeeded to impress on all visitors that South Africa appreciates the World Cup.

The setting up of Fan Fest Centers has been a wonderful experience for everyone and when we attended the Fan Fest during the South Africa vs France match, the atmosphere was electric and Sanusi could not relax until he managed to acquire a Vuvuzela. He struggled to blow and it was great fun watching him try but once he got hold of the trick he couldnít stop blowing. It was a family day out and it was free. Thousands were there and there were no restrictions on what could be done. It was a day of entertainment and fun. South Africans showed us how football can be fun and not just about winning. They still love their Bafana Bafana and are still holidaying and celebrating the World Cup. The mood is still there.

Since our arrival, we have watched England versus Slovenia, Uruguay versus Korea, England versus Germany and now we are destined to watch Portugal versus Spain on Tuesday 29th, Holland versus Brazil on 2nd July and the semi final in Durban which potentially will be Argentina/Germany versus Spain/Portugal/Paraguay/Japan on the 7th July before our scheduled return on the 8th July, that is if FIFA does not allocate tickets to us for the finals.

In all honesty the best match watched so far is Uruguay versus South Korea. The other matches have not lived to expectation. The England versus Germany was a disaster and since it was our first match away from Port Elizabeth, it was extremely uncomfortable. We left for Blomfontein at 6.30 am and arrived at 3pm. The match finished at 6pm and we left the stadium at 7pm. There was no transportation back to Port Elizabeth and our only option was to take the bus to Johannesburg at 2am on Monday and then take a flight at 11 am to Port Elizabeth. What would have cost us $ 30 each with the Bus to Port Elizabeth ended up costing us $ 200 each with a lot of discomfort. It was sad to see German and English fans sleeping on the floor since their earliest transportation was not due until 7am the next morning and there were no accommodation available.

The tempo for Holland versus Brazil and Portugal versus Spain naturally is on the up and in Port Elizabeth where Brazil takes on Holland, the big guns of  Football are expected to be in attendance and with two of the best supporters in the World; it would be a great day with scintillating football expected. I continue to stand by predictions that it will be a Brazil versus Spain final but my heart and prayers, like all other Africans, is with Ghana. I hope my prediction is wrong and The Black Stars of Africa (not Ghana) make it all the way.

Itís been a very expensive venture but an experience of a lifetime; both Sanusi and I have not regretted it for a second. It is the kind of experience that can never be appreciated until you witness it, but make no mistake it is not all rosy and there are a lot of difficulties faced. It has been a good World Cup in the eyes of many, but has it really been a success story?

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.