South Africa’s World Cup A Legacy for Whom? Edited by Eddie Cottle
Published by UKZN Press, Durban. 2011.
Benito Mussolini once described fascism as “the merger between corporate and state power”. If we are to seriously consider Il Duce’s words, then surely, South Africa became a fascist state during 2010. The entire country was held to ransom by corporate greed and excess, while FIFA through its Football World Cup Tournament raked in the profits.
Of course, many will argue that the country has been fascist (by Mussolini’s definition) since 1994, with major players in business and industry at very high levels within the ruling party making common cause. South Africa’s blurring of the lines between business, politics and media, has given rise to a country in denial of its present. If any event brought this to the forefront of discourse, then the 2010 tournament held in South Africa has to be that event.
Sport is a universal language, with each country enjoying its own fixation with this social outlet, and communities, clubs, regions and countries supporting rivalries that traverse time and space. With the advent of digital technology, sport has entered a new phase in its advance towards becoming the dominant culture of the 21st century. Such power and prominence is not without controversy. With multi-national corporations plowing huge amounts of money into the sponsorship (ownership?) of clubs, schools, sports facilities, national teams, events, and even individual sports stars, questions arise regarding the true meaning of sport in a healthy functioning society. 2010 yielded the “Most successful FIFA World Cup Ever” (Sepp Blatter 2010), while the poor, oppressed and dispossessed still wait for the windfall. Working together in unity is hardly how I would describe what happened to the majority of the South African citizenry during FIFA’s stewardship of the country in 2010 the people were unified in being bulldozed into support for this event,.
The disparity in telling the story of the poor in South Africa can be examined through Eddie Cottle’s South Africa’s World Cup A Legacy for Whom? This book offers a glimpse into how history and popular discourse is presented for public consumption. In Cottle’s book, Liepollo Lebohang Pheko, from The Trade Collective says the following: “Just over a year after the vuvuzelas and flag-waving euphoria that characterised the FIFA World Cup gave way to the return to our collective realities and mundane business of counting the cost of manufactured benefits, this book provides an insightful, well argued and vibrant account of what went wrong. It is a must read for the many people who, like me, felt mugged and cheated during and after the event.”
In the July/August 2010 issue of Amandla Magazine, the cover pointedly asks: “2010 World Cup Soccer Pride or Phony Nationalism?” Cottle’s book puts this question, and many other questions regarding the soccer World Cup, under the microscope, and explores through the editorial collective, the failure of the 2010 FIFA World Cup to deliver on promises made to the South African nation. While the Cottle book focuses on the 2010 Soccer World Cup, many other promises since 1994 have failed to materialize, and the systematic progression to an elitist society is there for all to see. We have become a proudly `Abnormal Society’, enjoying `Normal Sport’ while the country teeters on the brink of disaster.
Growing up during the era of SACOS (South African Council on Sport), I have always been aware of the power of sport as unifier, social builder and narrow (and broad) national project. Under the old Nationalist Government there was always the lament that sport & politics should not mix. The FIFA 2010 World Cup Tournament in South Africa, then, should serve as a case study of how an entire country was held to ransom for a month by capitalist agents. The betrayal of the South African proletariat was total, and was sanctioned by the post 1994 South African Government. Africa’s first (and probably last) World Cup failed dismally to deliver on promises made during the bidding process. In the chapter entitled “Informal Traders and the Struggle to Trade” by Pat Horn, this issue is explored in detail: “The street vendors and other informal traders of South Africa, as well as informal cross-border traders from other African countries, are part of the constituencies of the urban poor who found themselves most marginalised by, and during, the preparations for the FIFA World Cup tournament in June/July 2010. Why was this so, after the glorious promises that the 2010 FIFA World Cup would provide them opportunities of a lifetime.”
Dennis Brutus once famously asked of the pending tournament “Who was consulted, when the bid was put forward, were the people asked for an opinion, and above all, were they told what the cost was likely to be…?” (Injury Time). It is not surprising though to have witnessed the euphoria surrounding the tournament, as the media went into overdrive, marketing the showpiece in much the same way the Nazi media (and indeed the world’s media) lauded the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Books such as this important social commentary by Eddie Cottle, need to be presented to sociology, political science and media students and, more importantly, to South African society as a whole. Much like the 1995 IRB Rugby World Cup Tournament heralded the liberation of captive capital in South Africa, the FIFA World cup seduced the entire continent into support for this debauchery. The tournament epitomizes the use of socialist principles for the elite the poor continually having to subsidize the elite. In the chapter entitled “Soccer City” by Mondi Hlatshwayo, we find, surprise, surprise, that the venue of the final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament, is unwanted by the teams surrounding it: “Soccer City, in the heart of Gauteng will battle to pay its way. Neither Kaizer Chiefs nor Orlando Pirates want it as their home ground, while the Lions rugby side cannot fill the vast stands.” This is the same stadium where the Blues Bulls Rugby side, when they qualified for the Super 14 Final, `Took Rugby to Soweto’ belying over 120 years of rugby excellence in black communities. Such is the nature of our national deception.
Perusing local bookstores one is struck by the plethora of sport books and sports biographies. Few of these, if any, address the issues of inequality on our playing fields, rather they further entrench elitist ideologies, even as beneficiaries of the apartheid and post apartheid system flaunt their sordid stories.
More than any book I’ve read recently, Cottle’s firmly addresses the moral issue of enjoying “Normal Sport in an Abnormal Society”. We cannot turn a blind eye to the injustice prevalent in our country, much of it carried out by the state machinery.
Covering topics such as sex work during the World Cup Tournament in “Lies, Misrepresentation and Unfulfilled Expectations: Sex Work and the 2010 Soccer World Cup” by Vivienne Mentor-Lalu and the hard-hitting chapter by Dr Dale T McKinley “Mbombela: Corruption, Murder, False Promises and Resistance”, the Cottle book goes beyond the fluff and frivolity of modern media discourse in South Africa and provides detailed insight into the workings of the powers behind `the beautiful game’.
Negative comments directed at the South African FIFA World Cup were dealt with quite harshly by the both the liberal brigade and `revolutionaries’ during the lead up to, during and in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 circus, even as evidence of a colossal social failure mounted. The horse has bolted, and we are left to pick up the pieces of the stable door. It now becomes easy for people to voice their opinions against FIFA, as multi-billion rand stadiums become white elephants, and the cost of the tournament bears down on them. In the not too distant past, the Western Province Rugby Union was `requested’ to move their base from Newlands to the FIFA Greenpoint Stadium.
In the end, we as South Africans are all going to pay the price for the excess and greed of a few. The Cottle book explains through various case studies how these payments have affected, and will affect us in the future. As good as this book is as a case study of a tournament that will haunt South Africans for many decades to come, I fear, and I hope I am wrong, that it will not be widely read purely because of its content. The content is a collection from all sectors of society, detailing the effects of the FIFA World Cup on Africa’s dominant economy and examining promises made and unfulfilled. The content could therefore be seen by those in power as being `counter revolutionary’ and, as the country is poised on the cusp of totalitarianism, such information should be kept far from the proletariat.
Ultimately the book will prove to be invaluable to scholars and activists who have for many years opposed FIFA’s feudal policies.
Mark Fredericks is the director of the film Injury Time (2011) a story about South Africa and non-racial sports struggle.