Did SA sell its ‘soul’ to FIFA?

It is now well-known that South African government gave in to Fifa’s ludicrous demands to be the hosting nation for the World Cup tournament last year. This gave the football body the right to go around bossing everyone and everything else and dictating what should and should not happen. By so doing, did South Africasell its ‘soul’ to the controversially capitalist FIFA?

It seems to a reasonable like myself that when South Africa (and those who helped it, whoever they are) won the rights to hosting the World Cup tournament more than six years ago it also sold its soul to the football federation. Of course, that’s if it had any of that before.

I have nothing against Fifa or its affiliated bodies. However, I have a problem with the way FIFA tends, or is seen rather, to run things inSouth Africa. This includes some of its demands (all the protection it could get and were guaranteed) by the SA government from third parties.

Constitutional Law Professor at the Universityof Cape Townand a Constitutionally Speaking blogger Pierre de Vos saw these as “draconian [in] nature” while Ivo Vegter said they were an “outright extortion”.

These after the municipal by-laws were adopted by all host cities in order “to safeguard the profits that Fifa hopes to make from the Football World Cup in South Africa municipalities”. It also followed media reports that two Dutch women Barbara Castelein and Mirte Nieuwpoort were arrested and released on R10,000 bail each following their alleged “orange dress ambush marketing”.

The women’s lawyer Kobus Lowies said the women were “very traumatized” and “treated by bullies” after Fifa “accused them of having been sent by brewer Bavariato orchestrate an ambush marketing campaign at the World Cup match between the Netherlands and Denmarkon Monday”. Fifa failed to comment at time, reportedly referring all queries to the SA Police Service, but said the matter was “under criminal investigation, and [that] the South African Police Service [was] proceeding as per the normal legislation”.

Fifa allegedly charged the women because they were behind an “orchestration campaign”. One of the guarantees the country gave Fifa was that protection from any other third party whose acts would likely jeopardise or compromise its brand. It alleged the women were flown from Netherlands to “organise this ambush activity”. The two women, aged 32 at the time and wearing the same outfit, obtained tickets from “unauthorised sources” according to Fifa and were to be charged for contravening the SA Merchandise Marks Act because Bavaria was not an official World Cup sponsor.

Given the guarantees Fifa received from the government one can say Fifa was correct to have taken steps it took in protecting its brand when it reportedly filed “ambush marketing” against the so-called organisers believed to have been paid by Bavaria because it “warned companies [like Bavaria] before the 2010 Soccer World Cup that South Africa had legislation criminalising ambush marketing”. Fifa wrote to a large number of companies before the tournament drawing their attention to this specific South African legislation, to avoid any unknowing infringements.

Bavaria, however, asked Fifa to stop intimidating Dutch-dressed female supporters and that if it Fifa has “any problems” with the company it would like to be contacted directly. It advised the football federation not to “take action against innocent people wearing our orange dress”.

Dutch embassy spokesman Christophe Prommersberger described the arrest as “disproportionate”, that it was “not correct” for the women to be arrested juts because they were wearing orange dresses to the football stadium.

Although there may be different views on the issue on how Fifa man-handled the issue and other related matters – I was personally worried that the guarantees (e.g. the removal the street kids off the streets or near the stadiums into the camps where no one will see them as they are seen to be a threat to the Fifa brand) made by SA government did not help much and instead made things even worse. It is like agreeing to selling every bit of the country’s left soul to Fifa, if it had any at all. Could this be true that the country “’sold its birthright for a mess of pottage” when it agreed to hosting the tournament as Ivo Vegter once suggested?

That Fifa with its sponsors, partners and a “few selected cronies rich enough to buy a place at the trough”, as wrote Vegter at the time, had “special laws” put in place to make sure it gets its hands on “every farthing that can remotely be connected to the World Cup”, that these were “laws our government has written for the His Imperial Majesty Sepp Blatter, [that were] nothing short of disgraceful”.

Or this so happened because Fifa knew how, where and when to toe the line?

This is an edited article first published on 18 June 2011 in a blog I owned then but no longer own.

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