Monday, 17 May 2010

For Ordinary Joe, this World Cup may be spent in FIFAland, not South Africa

Dumela is 28. He wears dreadlocks, never stops moving, and provides instant beer with a smile at the Keg & Spear pub next to the sparkling new Moses Mabhida Stadium.

You’d expect this father of four from KwaMashu to be looking forward to the World Cup and the crowds of foreign tourists arriving to eat, drink and be merrily tipping waiters next month. He isn’t. FIFA have decreed that the Keg & Spear, doing a roaring trade before the Sharks beat the Force at the neighbouring ABSA Stadium on Friday night, will be closed from this weekend – until after the World Cup finishes on July 14.

Dumela’s not keen on a picture being taken. Or on giving his full name. He’s hoping, desperately, that he will find a job in the Fan Zone during the World Cup, selling licensed FIFA beers and trinkets in the tent village soon to emerge on the concourse outside the Keg.

Otherwise he will earn nothing during Durban’s high profile hosting of the greatest footballing event on earth.

“Seven weeks out of work, I can’t do that,” he told me, “FIFA say we are not one of their licensed outlets, so we must close. But this pub is in a perfect place for the World Cup. I have applied to FIFA but I’ve heard nothing. I have my family to think of.”

Dumela is not alone. When City Manager Andy Sutcliffe signed Durban’s contract with FIFA in 2006, he might not have full appreciated the powers he was giving away. Until the middle of July, EThekwini may feel like a colony of FIFAland rather than a municipality in South Africa.

The local vendors around the two magnificent stadiums (Durban is a future Olympic venue if ever I saw one) are in the same boat as the 30 staff at the Keg. Unlicensed, they have been told to pay R25,000 or leave the vicinity during the five World Cup qualifiers and two knock-out matches at the Moses Mabhida.

Sipho Nkwane (I hope I got his name right) sells anything from shirts to sweat bands in team colours every week when Amazulu are playing, as they were in the rain on Friday night against Sundowns. He too faces a bleak World Cup: “My stuff is not licensed by FIFA. I have some cheap South Africa shirts and flags, but I will not be allowed to sell them during the tournament.”

And the sky car and bungee jumping at the Moses Mabhida, so popular since they opened last November, must also close until after the tournament. The lady selling tickets there on Friday night told me: “It’s such a shame. Only FIFA people can use these facilities now. And it would be so good to run the Sky Car for visitors during the World Cup.”

Local taxi drivers have been put through the mill too. They have been forced to get “World Cup roadworthy certificates” from the local transport authority before they get their “FIFA accredited” sticker. Their cars must be dent-free with no rips in the seats. Immaculate taxis only for FIFA. But they are likely to be kept two kilometres away from the ground in a FIFA-stipulated exclusion zone.

Joe, my driver in a splendid cap after Amazulu’s extra ordinary penalty shoot-out win over Sundowns on Saturday night, said: “We really don’t know how it’s going to work. Nobody has really explained. But I think FIFA have the power to shut any of the roads. There are people talking of a taxi strike, we are all worried.”

The general perception, speaking to those hundreds of working class folk who make their lives from fans and tourists around what I once knew as Kings Park, is pretty bleak. For a city about to welcome a huge influx of tourists, the shocking question is: “How are we going to survive for the next seven weeks?”

For Dumela, Sipho and Joe, as an experienced journalist who has travelled the world covering World Cups and Olympics from Sydney to Athens, I can offer no answer other than a couple of British pounds as a tip. Pathetic. But at least they get to glimpse a foreign tourist before the big kick-off.

When the situation was put to FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke at the recent Media Face Off at the Moses Mabhida - part of the huge Indaba 2010 conference – he quickly ruled out compromise.

The otherwise smooth Frenchman said simply: “This is the way we operate. Not all of our tournaments are commercial. We have to protect our licensed products, our sponsors, our reputation. I’m sorry, that’s how it is.

“People don't understand that, for FIFA, the World Cup is the only way to finance all that we are doing. We must protect the World Cup and people thought that we were bullying people or were policing the system.”

It’s not as if there won’t be enough people about. Valcke dreamily assured us tickets for all matches at the Moses Mabhida were “95 percent sold”. With 13,000 temporary seats added to the 56,000 permanent places in the arched edifice, there will be nearly 70,000 attending the seven games. I make that nearly half a million people heading to the ground in the space of a month.

But Valcke, who admitted he had learned lessons from South Africa to take to Brazil in four years time, insisted: “The situation will not change.”

With angry street vendors around Ellis Park and Soccer City quoted over the weekend quoted as saying “We shall make the World Cup unmanageable if they ban us,” that’s an answer Mr Valcke may live to regret – especially with FIFA (a non-profit making organisation) announcing this week they made a $196m surplus in 2009 with revenue up to a record $1.06 billion.


  1. Not just the vendors though (this: is also a pretty good read about how entrepreneurs are exploited) but for the average middle class South Africans, the tickets aside from Cat4 were pretty pricey. And let's not get started on the "official" merchandise.

  2. The only people going to make money are those who already have plenty of it. The poor guys who have been selling their wares outside the stadiums for years will be swept aside to let FIFA's noses into the trough.

  3. Thanks for both those comments. I'm just hoping FIFA will take a more gentle African approach to this World Cup. Otherwise there may be trouble ahead...

  4. ARGH and now the tax laws regarding soccer players here. Stupid. Had a long chat to the guy who sells wire art outside my office today and he reckons they won't really make money at all. Because accomodation is so expensive he believes people will be spending their cash on food and accomodation and tickets, they won't have money to waste on South African art. Sigh

  5. Saw a picture in Mercury today of wire artist... looks like he may make something! But generally you're right. We need to make sure ordinary people profit, not just FIFA