World football body Fifa has reassured Africans that next year’s Fifa World Cup will benefit the entire continent, and not only South Africa.

Speaking on how Africa was set to benefit from next year’s tournament, Fifa spokesperson Delia Fischer said there were several programmes in place under Fifa’s social responsibility project.

She said although South Africa was the host country, Fifa president Sepp Blatter made no secret of pronouncing the 2010 soccer showpiece “Africa’s World Cup”.

“Fifa’s aim through our many projects is to create a balance on the continent,” said Fischer. “In 2006, shortly after South Africa won the bid, many programmes were launched.

“If we just look at infrastructure, thus far 42 of 53 world-class soccer pitches have already been built across the continent… which will develop these areas and communities. There are soccer clinics running, we have education campaigns and football development projects across Africa. These are just some projects and ways we are making this World Cup benefit Africa.”

In addition, Fischer said there were a number of courses running on refereeing and coaching across the continent. “Through this, we want to raise the level of the football leagues in Africa,” she said.

“We recognise that all football leagues on the continent want a return on investment and want to use the World Cup as that opportunity. We are also assisting soccer leagues with commercialisation and getting them sponsorships.”

With the accreditation of the Fifa Medical Centre of Excellence in Cape Town last week, Fischer said Fifa was also trying to get more Africans to study sport science.

“We want to coach more academics in sport,” she said, “especially sport medicine, which has become very important over the past few years. We also have the Football for Health initiative, which aims to reduce football injuries.”

Last month Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile said ordinary South Africans and Africans would benefit through initiatives such the promotion of tourism and the development of infrastructure.

“We started an initiative with Wits Business School to train sports managers,” he said. “Fifa has agreed to participate in that programme of intensifying the training of good sport managers.”

Various African countries also stood to benefit from the tourism boom expected during the tournament, he said.

The minister said the South African government and Fifa had agreed that the international teams participating in the tournament would be free to conduct their training camps in neighbouring countries.

He cautioned, however, that those countries would need to go out and market themselves as ideal tourism destinations.

Other initiatives of the legacy projects for Africa include:

# A Peace Caravan, focusing on African countries going through conflict.

# Silencing the Guns, aimed at facilitating the replacement of guns with radios.

# My Game is Fair Play, an initiative to mobilise politicians to sign an undertaking based on Fifa Fair Play principles.

PUBLICATION: Cape Argus
AUTHOR: Clayton Barnes
DATED: 3rd March 2009