Derek Carstens wears red socks, Joe Slovo style. But he is no communist — he is as capitalist as they come.

Red is also the colour of passion and as chief marketing officer of the 2010 Local Organising Committee it is Carstens’s job to create passion about the World Cup.

With time running out — the tournament kicks off in June 2010 — before Africa hosts its first global soccer spectacle, the only suggestion that South Africa will be the stage is the construction of new and renovation of existing stadiums.

Even Fifa president Sepp Blatter decried the lack of excitement in his visit last month, echoing a concern expressed earlier by Jerome Valcke, the general secretary of the world football governing body.

But Carstens, credited as being the brains behind the catchy “where did he come from” FNB campaign — he was seconded to the LOC from the bank — is set to change all that now that the Beijing Olympics have come and gone and the spotlight is on South Africa.

“In early November we will kick off a TV commercial campaign. We are developing a programming strategy with international broadcasters such as Fox, BBC and CNN, the objective of which is to send a message that everything will be ready come 2010,” he said.

The biggest challenge facing Carstens is to change the misconceptions of SA as a place where crime welcomes you at the airport. To this end, the 2010 LOC will work closely with the International Monetary Fund and Tourism SA, among others, to provide the correct perspective by “staying with the facts”.

“Fact is,” said Carstens “eight million tourists visited last year. We will use the tourists who have been here as ambassadors to preach the gospel about SA.

“There will be 30000 more policemen and 60000 CCTV cameras. Now that is the last place on God’s earth where a criminal will want to be. Security at an event is different to general security because with an event, you know exactly where the people are.”

While the country continues to be condemned for the high crime rate, new safety and security minister Nathi Mthethwa has received two helicopters to boost the security programme. A further four will be delivered this year as part of securing the World Cup in an efficient, professional manner.

But while the countdown continues towards the main course, the clock is ticking closer to the starter, the Confederations Cup, from June 14 to 28 next year.

Carstens said SA should make a success of this competition, which features Brazil, Egypt, New Zealand, Spain, US, Iraq, Italy and the host nation.

“The Confed Cup is the best chance for South Africans to watch world-class football, especially with the cheapest tickets going for 10.”

The draw will be held on November 22 and tickets will go on sale the next day.

Carstens wants to get big business to buy into the concept of purchasing tickets for its employees to boost attendances.

For the World Cup, Carstens wants to make sure the African continent feels a genuine sense of inclusion, something he aims to achieve with the “African six-pack” concept.

“There will be six African countries in the competition. Local fans should adopt other African countries and support them if Bafana bomb out early.

“We want Bafana to do well but if they don’t we must get behind the African teams because we are in this together.

“We will be celebrating the opening of stadiums for the Confed Cup by playing matches against African opposition. They must feel fully engaged and we need to reach out to them.

“Above all, our World Cup will offer the world a magical experience. People are looking for adventures, new experiences.

“The intrigue and allure of Africa has an amazing appeal. We have an element of the unknown, which appeals to people. There is that dimension of what kind of experience they are going to get here,” he said.

AUTHOR: Bareng-Batho Kortjaas
DATED: 19th October 2008