Every now and then sports chiefs need a short, sharp kick up the backside just to remind them why they were put into such powerful positions in the first place.

This is exactly what complacent South African soccer officials received when Fifa launched its recent broadside over lack of promotion for the upcoming Confederations Cup.

Clearly, some administrators feel the Confed Cup sells itself and they do not need to create a special vibe around the event.

If this is their view – and it is hard to fathom why they would adopt such a short-sighted stance – they are clearly living in a fool’s paradise.

In many countries, the Confed Cup would sell itself, but this was never going to be the case here.

If South Africa is to achieve its goal of capacity crowds at all the big matches, much work needs to be done in the weeks leading up to the tournament.

It needs to be pointed out that even Bafana struggle to attract crowds to their home matches.

Perhaps fans have become spoilt by the number of live PSL matches that are now available to watch on television.

Anyone who knows anything about professional soccer in South Africa will tell you that 90 per cent of PSL matches are played in front of pitifully small crowds.

What made Fifa’s attack on the lack of advertising for the Confed Cup even more remarkable is that previously it has shied away from any sort of criticism of South Africa. In the last two years, when doubts have surfaced about South Africa’s ability to host the World Cup next year, they were quickly shot down in flames by Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

Fifa, and its entire organising committee, have always been supportive of South Africa even when serious doubts have surfaced over transport and crime levels.

But Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke decided enough was enough when he broke ranks and took the hosts to task for inept promoting of the Confed Cup and World Cup.

Valcke noted he had not seen a single poster on his way from the airport to the refurbished Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg.

It is worth remembering that Port Elizabeth hosted a four-team international tournament earlier this year featuring Bay United, Cosmos and top Russian and Slovakian sides.

There were posters all over the city to market the event, but it still turned out to be a disaster.

The tournament, scheduled for two weeks, only lasted one week after crowds of less then 100 watched the opening matches.

So perhaps Valcke should note that even posters do not always have the desired effect in South Africa. But now that Fifa has delivered its wake-up call, there is still reason to believe that the Confederations Cup can be a resounding success.

The tournament kicks-off on June 14, with South Africa facing Asian champions Iraq at Coca Cola Park in Johannesburg. It will be the first time the Confed Cup has been hosted by an African country.

Though Fifa’s broadside might have bruised some egos, it is sure to have woken up any local officials who had been lulled into complacency. A good kick up the seat of the pants is never a bad thing – especially when it delivers the desired effect!

PUBLICATION: The Weekend Post Online
DATED: 21st March 2009