Zero in Zurich
South Africa 14, Morocco 10, Egypt, one goose-egg. From the Swiss city, Inas Mazhar
reports on who won the right to host the 2010 World Cup and who won nothing at all
It was 21 minutes past noon both in Switzerland and South Africa (one hour later in Egypt) when the envelope in Zurich was opened, its contents withdrawn and FIFA President Joseph S Blatter made the long- awaited announcement, barely audible above the noise. On 15 May 2004 history had been made. It was the time of Africa and South Africa to stage the World Cup.
With 14 votes to Morocco's 10 and Egypt's none, South Africa had been chosen as hosts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup from the first round of voting.
"I am delighted that an African association has earned the right to host the FIFA World Cup," said Blatter, the head of world football's governing body, as the South African bid delegation embraced. Elated South African journalists, many sporting workmen's helmets, blew "vuvuzela" plastic horns and sang the traditional African "Shosholoza" anthem in the packed auditorium.
The South African team, including former President Nelson Mandela, bid Chairman Irvin Khoza and Chief Executive Danny Jordaan, were invited onto the stage to answer questions. Also in attendance were Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's president, and Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
"This is for Africa," said Khoza addressing the 44 million South Africans. "We have the jewel in the crown of sporting events."
Over recent months Mandela had campaigned tirelessly to promote his nation's bid. Sitting next to Blatter, Mandela, who had spent 27 of his 85 years in prison under the apartheid regime, could not hold back tears moments after the announcement and they fell freely down his cheeks.
"I feel like a young man of 15," he said to laughter. But typically, Mandela's first thought was for others -- the people of Morocco, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. "You must not be discouraged. It is no reflection on your efforts. Next time when you compete, you may be luckier."
Mandela delivered a message back home to his people. "South Africans should treat this decision with humility and without arrogance because we are, after all, equal," he said.
"The World Cup decision is a big victory for one and a massive defeat for others," Jordaan said after the vote. "But let us join hands and move forward to deliver an outstanding World Cup.
"The dream of a nation has come true today. Some South Africans may not have food or a job but they now have hope. FIFA has said Africa is worthy. It is wonderful to be an African today.
"Four years ago we were losers but are now winners. This is sports and life. Our hearts were broken, but we continued. I can understand how the Moroccans feel because that was how we felt when we lost by only one vote to Germany for the 2006 World Cup. They have to go on," Jordaan said.
Speaking later to the Egyptian media, Jordaan said the Egyptians were unlucky, adding he was surprised that Egypt had received no votes. "South Africa has waited 100 years to bring the World Cup to its people. Now with the rotation system you might have the chance in 20 years time, not 100," he said. (In 2000, following the dramatic result of the voting for the host nation of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, when Germany prevailed with 12 votes to 11 (with one controversial abstention), FIFA decided to introduce a rotation policy for the World Cup and accorded Africa the right to host the 2010 FIFA edition.
Surprisingly, Blatter said he was not surprised at all that Egypt will go home empty-handed. "It was clear from the beginning of the bidding 18 months ago that the competition was between only South Africa and Morocco. The Egyptians had a good file and good presentation, may be better than good, but they had no chance. The file committee showed no seriousness."
Egypt's Youth Minister Alieddin Hilal, who flew home immediately after the announcement, said Egypt had played fairly. "Since we began our campaign we made it clear that our bid would not depend on imposing political or economic pressure on other countries as other candidates did. We refused to beg for votes or pay bribes. We thought it would be played fairly. Our message to the executives and the world was that we weren't playing politics, we weren't playing business. We were simply playing football. But it seems it wasn't fair play."
Egypt spent LE50 million during the past two years for lobbying and advertisement purposes but Hilal defended the bid committee against charges that such a huge sum of money had gone in vain. "I have not wasted the government's money. Sponsors bore many things and I have proof." On the eve of the final presentation, on Friday, Hilal had told Egyptian reporters in Zurich, "if we lose, I have the proof and the documents to clear the ministry's name. I have it in writing and will bring it out after the FIFA announcement."
"Nobody was saying anything about Egypt because we haven't been hearing any news about it," Rob Rogers, a TV producer at South Africa SABC, said. "You started lobbying too late. We have been working for years and the Moroccans started even before us. You should have benefited from our experience," Rogers added.
Moroccan officials expressed their disappointment after losing to South Africa by four votes. It was Morocco's fourth attempt at a World Cup; all have been unsuccessful. Some officials accused Blatter of having played a deciding role in the vote. "Blatter used all his weight to influence the outcome of the vote," Nejjar, a member of the Morocco 2010 organising committee, said.
Saed Bashir, a Moroccan journalist, accused Blatter to his face of being the king of the FIFA kingdom. "You are not neutral. You owed it to South Africa and you voted for them. You are running FIFA as your own private business," Bashir told Blatter publicly. Blatter kept his composure. "I refuse to accept this sort of comment. This is the FIFA year of Fair Play and I'm the president of all the federations. I have no preference for one or the other," Blatter said.
Businessman Saad Kettani, the head of the Morocco bid, was able to smile in defeat. "We're not disappointed because we ran a worthy campaign. Billions of TV viewers saw the quality of our presentation but the final decision is made by 24 people. We respect the decision and we wish South Africa good luck."
In a short address prior to announcing the host nation, Blatter thanked the five bidders, including Tunisia and Libya, for "excellent work".
"The winner is Africa. The victory is football."
On the morning of the announcement, the FIFA executives met to discuss the bids one final time. They deliberated over four bids after Tunisia withdrew the day earlier because its co- hosting plan with Libya had been banned. During its final deliberations, the executive committee came to the conclusion that it could no longer consider Libya's bid as well.
The result of the vote represented the highlight and climax of an 18-month procedure that began at the end of 2002 with African associations invited to declare an interest in hosting the tournament. Five countries submitted full bid files and received visits from the FIFA inspection group between October 2003 and the end of January 2004. Nigeria had shown initial interest but decided at the end of September 2003 against following it up.