The World Cup atmosphere has suffered a noticeable deflation after the 3-0 thumping of South Africa by Uruguay and Nigeria’s 2-1 defeat by Greece. Everything suggests that South Africa is about to become the first ever host nation not to get through the group stage of the Cup and that Africa’s biggest country is also all but out. The local consensus is that it’s time to write off these two and support Ghana and Ivory Coast instead, but the larger probability is that after all the fanfare, Africa will flop again simply because the continent’s undoubted talent on the field is matched by a completely disastrous mismanagement of the game in almost every African state. In effect the management of football in African countries is subject to all the normal corruption, political meddling and gross incompetence that dogs parastatal industries here and is usually made worse by corrupt and ruthless football bosses and bent referees. None of this looks like changing any time soon, so the best African football will doubtless continue to be seen in the European leagues.
Meanwhile a good deal of attention is being grabbed by 1Goal, a campaign that aims to ‘harness the power of football’ in order to achieve better education for 72 million children in poor countries by 2015. Yesterday morning on SABC radio I heard a 1Goal spokesperson, with a confident English NGO voice, telling us all that we must support them. Asked what she would like for South Africa’s schoolchildren, she said: ‘I’d like to see all those kids go out and get themselves an absolutely fantastic education.’ Exactly how this praiseworthy goal is to be achieved is unclear – thus far we have had a wholly pointless march through Jo’burg in favour of ‘quality education’. To anyone aware of the deteriorating state of education in South Africa this is risible. But no big world sporting or cultural event is complete nowadays without a utopian NGO and accompanying slogan like ‘make poverty history’ and 1Goal seems to have this particular slot sewn up.
Meanwhile the Opposition Democratic Alliance has scored a notable goal of its own by obtaining a copy of a circular issued by the ANC’s provincial minister for local government in Gauteng, Kgaogelo Lekgoro, issuing advice to municipalities on how to circumvent the finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s directive not to buy World Cup tickets. Gordhan has been very stern about this and warned that buying tickets would be ‘irregular, wasteful and fruitless’ and would also constitute financial misconduct and irregular expenditure under the terms of the Public Finance Management Act as well as certain provisions in the Code of Conduct for Public Servants.
Legoro however has told municipalities that buying Cup tickets for officials and employees and their friends could be considered a ‘marketing strategy for purposes of promoting the work of the municipality’ and actually told all Gauteng local representatives to attend the opening and closing matches, though he warns them that ‘travel to other provinces’ – i.e. to see games – ‘has to be justified on the partnership building basis.’ If 1Goal really wanted to make an impact it could do worse than tot up how this sort of spending will undermine education budgets. 1Goal may think it has ‘harnessed the power of football’ but other interests are tugging on the reins too.