The legacy of the 2010 Fifa World Cup will stand South Africa in good stead, as the country prepares to stage yet another spectacular football tournament, this time the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
South Africa received the nod to host Afcon 2017 after being pipped by Morocco for the 2015 event. The two were the only nations bidding after the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) pulled out.
The Confederation of African Football (Caf) announced its decision on 29 January in Lubumbashi, DRC, after evaluating bids from the two competing nations.
The South African Football Association’s (Safa) delegation, comprising its president Kirsten Nematandani, vice president Danny Jordaan and outgoing CEO Leslie Sedibe, concluded their bid in a 45-minute presentation before Caf’s announcement, as did Morocco’s representatives.
Safa wanted the 2015 rights as it felt the country is more than ready to host Afcon within the next four years.
“Considering that we have all the resources in place, our preference was to host the tournament in 2015,” said Nematandani in a statement.
The country’s 2010 Fifa World Cup infrastructure has been widely acclaimed. Dazzling venues like FNB in Soweto, Moses Mabhida in Durban, Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth and the eye-catching Cape Town Stadium are part of the international tournament’s legacy for South Africa.
Billions were spent on building new and reconstructing old stadiums. Even low-key provinces like Mpumalanga and Limpopo now have world-class venues.
The 43 500-seater Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga was built at a cost of R1.5-billion (US$140-million). Peter Mokaba Stadium in Limpopo cost the tax-payer about R1.24-billion (US$150-million) and can accommodate more than 45 000 spectators.
The football World Cup’s 64 matches were staged in 10 stadiums across eight of the nine provinces. With such a wealth of experience, South Africa will not find it difficult to prepare for 2017.
“I think we’ll rely on the legacy of the World Cup. Our stadiums are in good condition,” said Safa’s spokesman Morio Sanyane in an interview.
“Our roads are also good,” Sanyane added. “We did a great job in transporting people during the World Cup.”
While main roads were transformed for the international spectacle, public transport also received a major boost in cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town, where efficient Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems were introduced.
Road to 2017
Though Safa lost the bid for 2015 Afcon, it does not feel hard done by Caf and has congratulated Morocco. “Safa has welcomed the decision of Caf,” Sanyane said.
“We congratulate Morocco and wish them all the best in hosting this project of continental importance,” Nematandani said.
Part of the preparations for the 2017 event will be to review Safa’s 2014 vision, a strategy that focuses on competitions like the 2012 Afcon in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea and the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil.
“Our strategy has to incorporate various aspects that will lead to the successful hosting of the 2017 Afcon,” said Nematandani. “2017 may seem far away, but the work starts now so that we are better prepared come the time.”
Safa has confirmed that they will bid for the 2014 Fifa Club World Cup tournament, whose 2010 edition was hosted by the United Arab Emirates last December.
Preparing Bafana for glory
In 2017 it will be exactly 21 years since South Africa hosted Afcon. The historic 1996 contest took place in the four host cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth, and national team Bafana Bafana snatched the top honours from Tunisia before 80 000 fans in magnificent style.
But Bafana’s Afcon performance has slumped after their debut victory in the tournament. The best results the team has produced since then are runners up in 1998 and third places in 1999 and 2002. They went out in the first round in three Afcons between 2004 and 2008.
Fans around the country were devastated when Bafana failed to qualify for the 2010 Afcon in Angola.
However, the team started their 2012 qualifying matches rather well in 2010. Bafana, which beat France in the World Cup, went on to thump Niger 2-0 in their first Afcon qualifier at Mbombela Stadium in September 2010.
They played to a 0-0 draw against Sierra Leone in an away match. The next qualifier is a contest against the resilient Egyptian team in March in South Africa.
Bafana have four important home and away matches where they have to achieve top points to secure a place in next year’s tournament.
Then it’s the race to qualify for the 2013 Afcon in Libya, and Bafana will also need to qualify for the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil.