Durban – It would be a disaster if the safety of people were threatened during the 2010 soccer World Cup tournament in South Africa, says Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke.

Addressing a news conference here on Thursday, Valcke said people became aware of the crime in South Africa only when visiting the country.

“When I arrived in South Africa and bought a newspaper, I read of all the crime. When you read about that, you start wondering about safety in the country.

“In Europe, we don’t hear as much about it. Therefore, it is more important in South Africa than abroad,” Valcke said during the first news conference ahead of the official draw for the qualifying rounds for the 2010 World Cup tournament.

He added that it would be a nightmare to the International Football Federation if there were crime during the 2010 tournament.

“We had no problems in Germany and must ensure that it will be the same in South Africa. Soccer must be the most important thing during the tournament.”

Valcke said South Africa should work hard to obtain the cooperation of all its communities to make it a very safe tournament.

Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the local organising committee, said South Africa had a perfect record during major international events.

“We have been the hosts, successfully, for large events such as rugby and cricket World Cup tournaments and the recent Twenty20 World Cup cricket,” Jordaan said.

“No incidents of crime were reported during these events. We admit crime is a problem in South Africa but it is a social problem that everyone should work on.

“About 14 000 new security positions have been created to address the problem.”

Jordaan said he hoped that those people who did not believe South Africa would be ready for the soccer World Cup would change their views when the draw was done at Durban’s International Conference Centre on Sunday.

“We want to prove to the world that we can run such as tournament successfully, and the draw is the start of it.”

Fifa chairperson Sepp Blatter arrived in Durban on Thursday.

PUBLICATION: Beeld
AUTHOR: Marjolein van der Stad
DATED: 22nd November 2007