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Reviews : World Cup's Green Point scandal revealed

Late in 2005, Fifa chief Sepp Blatter met then-president Thabo Mbeki. The next day Mbeki's minister Essop Pahad called then-Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool: "The presidency felt that Cape Town should consider Green Point."

This was a "tipping point" in a national government decision to build the R4.5 billion Cape Town Stadium, in which Fifa's bottom-line trumped the needs of South Africans.

So argue journalists Karen Schoonbee and Stefaans Brummer in a hard-hitting and in-depth new book examining this and similar allegedly conflicting interests, tender irregularities, and potential corruption around World Cup developments, as well as alleged global corruption within Fifa.


The book, Player and Referee: Conflicting interests and 2010 Fifa World Cup, was launched in Woodstock on Wednesday by the Institute for Security Studies. It presents six case studies by numerous award-winning investigative journalists including a chapter by British author Andrew Jennings.

In the chapter by Schoonbee and Brummer, they outline how Fifa and the Local Organising Committee (LOC), "effectively Fifa's agent", pressed the City of Cape Town into signing off a last-minute decision against the preferred venue, Athlone Stadium.

South Africa's initial World Cup bid fingered Newlands Stadium as Cape Town's venue. Fifa accepted this, but the 40 000 seater would not be able to stage any games beyond a quarterfinal. Athlone, however, was the City of Cape Town's choice.

Gert Bam, the city's director of sport and recreation, said: "Why we chose Athlone Stadium (was) not just because of football and that, but it would turn the city around, it (would) impact on this tale of two cities... Everybody agreed."

Using this stadium was an "opportunity to leverage development of an underdeveloped area" wrote Schoonbee and Brummer.

But while provincial and city authorities were in agreement by 2004, the LOC's Danny Jordaan said

the proposal was questionable in terms of "Fifa's requirements".

The next year he "conveyed an implicit threat": Fifa was considering allocating only five matches to Cape Town, "definitely a downgrading of the status of the city". Shortly after this, the city and province began to investigate Fifa's preferred Green Point as a "Plan B".

A Fifa delegation to the city - including Jerome Valcke, now its general secretary - then made it clear it did not like Athlone. "(Jordaan) telephoned (Rasool) and told him the Fifa delegation were not convinced that Athlone should be a match venue and felt that Cape Town was underselling itself," said Laurine Platzky, the province's 2010 co-ordinator.

The next month Blatter himself was in town, telling Rasool "Fifa had severe misgivings about Athlone".

That same day Blatter met Mbeki, following which Pahad made his call to convince Rasool further.

Rod Solomons, then the Western Cape sports and recreation head, said: "The only person that could intervene here would have been Sepp Blatter, and the only person who he could talk to to overturn that resolution of South Africa would be the president of South Africa."

Deputy sport and recreation minister Gert Oosthuizen eventually "let the cat out the bag", announcing Green Point had been decided on - even before the city had agreed to this. The city and province hurriedly "welcomed" this in a joint statement, and Blatter then signed the Cape Town agreement the same day the DA's Helen Zille was elected as mayor.

"Was the hurry, in the final days of (then Cape Town mayor Nomaindia) Mfeketo's administration, a deliberate stratagem to pass an unpalatable decision?" asked Schoonbee and Brummer.


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Tags: SWC   Cape   Town   Point   Green  

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