26 February 2010
Much has been written about the first African nation to host a Fifa World Cup™, from ringing endorsement to harsh criticism. As the 11 June kick-off approaches, who better to hear from than some of the coaches of the national teams who will grace the big event?
Fifa.com caught up with a selection of the national team supremos who were in Sun City in South Africa’s North West province for a Fifa team workshop last week and can confirm that, as far as finalists themselves are concerned, the 2010 Fifa World Cup™ could not be in better hands.
“We coaches, and everyone else who comes to this tournament, have to make this the best advertisement for Africa,” said Vicente del Bosque, coach of a Spanish side hotly tipped to lift the trophy for the first time. “This continent needs it, and I believe these finals will be every bit as successful as the previous 18 editions.”
The Spanish tactician, who got a taste of South Africa at last year’s Fifa Confederations Cup, was not the only one delighted to see the elite of world football coming to the continent. Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez felt the most significant thing was that “the tournament was being played outside Europe and the Americas.
“All the populations of the world have the right to host a World Cup which, given the huge amount of organisation and logistics involved, appeared to be increasingly beyond the reach of less-well-off countries,” Tabarez said.
Paving the way
The Celeste supremo, who was also at the helm of his national team at Italy 1990, went further, saying: “It could even pave the way for another African country to host the event, perhaps in the north of the continent.
“South Africa faced considerable challenges in organising this event, like improving the road network and the availability of public transport, but it’s worth it as it’s all in aid of the best sporting event on the planet.”
Of the coaches who attended the workshop, almost all had been to South Africa before – most for last December’s Final Draw, others for the Fifa Confederations Cup in 2009, and more still to sample its delights while on vacation.
Marcello Lippi, coach of defending champions Italy and visiting South Africa for the third time, said there was “a huge determination here to make the most of this exceptional opportunity. Every effort is being made to ensure this tournament continues to be a great success.”
‘I love this country’
Echoing that sentiment was Germany coach Joachim Low, who has visited South Africa on “countless occasions”. How would he sum it up? “I love this country, and the sense of pride the public feel to be hosting the World Cup is palpable.
“The people here know how to enjoy themselves, that’s apparent, and we’re looking forward to coming here in June to join the party,” Low said.
Another to have visited the homeland of Nelson Mandela on numerous occasions was New Zealand supremo Ricki Herbert. “We were very impressed with the facilities available for the Confederations Cup,” Herbert said. “It’s a great country with very friendly people, and I’m sure visiting fans will fall in love with South Africa.”
With his vast experience in African football, Algeria coach Rabah Saadane said he was “confident the tournament would be organised perfectly. The shared commitment and hard work being done by Fifa and the LOC is very apparent. There’s no reason at all to be worried.”
Saadane had other grounds for optimism, saying: “The weather should help produce better games – it’ll be ideal.” It was a theme also touched on by Del Bosque and Lippi, who both felt that playing in the South African winter would reduce the incidence of physical exhaustion.
“I’ve been here seven or eight times,” said Australia coach Pim Verbeek, “and I’ve always enjoyed it, including as a tourist. It’ll be a fabulous tournament, mark my words. I haven’t the slightest doubt that everything will be very well organised.”
South Africa’s organisers face the considerable challenge of following Germany in the hosting of sport’s premier event. France coach Raymond Domenech had his say on the issue. “We’re in Africa, not Germany. Just because there are differences doesn’t mean it won’t be a success here. On the contrary, it’s a challenge for everybody, and one that I have no doubt will be met successfully.”