FIFA, the governing body for world soccer, has announced that it has obtained a $650-million insurance package to cover the next two World Cup tournaments, here in 2010 and Brazil in 2014. Just in case either of them have to be postponed or switched to another country.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in Zurich at the weekend: “To ensure the 2010 and 2014 (Brazilian) World Cups are a success – were natural disasters or other acts to occur – we have insured the events.”

Secretary General Jerome Valcke stressed that the move does not indicate “any lack of trust” in South Africa.

But the official Project 2010 website explained on Thursday that FIFA has now covered itself in case this country does experience widespread civil unrest in the build-up to 2010.

“Given the outbreak of xenophobic violence earlier this year, the ‘recalling’ of President Thabo Mbeki and the split in the ruling African National Congress that followed, the reality is SA is probably not the safest of bets,” the anonymous author of a comment on the website said.

“The Independent Electoral Commission chairperson Brigalia Bam this week warned that ‘undertones of robust contestation turning into violent contestation are surfacing’.

“The reality is that the country that secured the rights to host the world’s biggest single-code sporting event back in 2004 and the one that is now experiencing a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty (thanks largely to the behaviour of a handful of politicians) are two very different places.

“FIFA has repeatedly expressed its faith in SA and has acknowledged the extraordinary progress that has been made with preparations for both the Confederations Cup next year and the 2010 World Cup. With general elections now looming fast, the current climate calls for cool heads and a recognition that we cannot allow political instability to derail Africa’s best chance to showcase itself.”

AUTHOR: Michael Hamlyn
DATED: 30th October 2008