FIFA blows chance with 2010 World Cup pickNelson Mandela is happy and so is South Africa. Having been shunned from hosting the world’s most prestigious sports events four years ago, South Africa won over FIFA this time around, and, for the first time, the World Cup will be held on the African continent. The loser in this year’s bid? Morocco, which lost out by a 14 to 10 vote.
We all know that South Africa is a symbol for the end of apartheid, which was achieved a decade ago. The country’s hosting of this event could certainly be symbolic, serving as a catalyst to fully integrate every aspect of South African society.
But I don’t agree with FIFA’s call. Sure, South Africa has previous experience hosting big events, like the Rugby World Cup and the Cricket World Cup. Sure, it has decent infrastructure in place to host the event. But never mind all that ― I still think the call should have gone to Morocco, and let me tell you why.
The World Cup symbolizes the kind of sportsmanship where everyone plays the game despite the ideological and religious differences. In that respect, what better place is there than Morocco?
It’s pretty obvious that religion is the factor most responsible for stirring up hatred and trouble among humans. Always was, always will be. Osama bin Laden has hidden behind the veil of religion so well that his actions have earned him fame ― almost legitimacy ― in some parts of the world.
We ought to counter that by choosing an Islamic country, to show that we can all live without extreme interpretations of religion, and live well at that.
Morocco’s per-capita GDP stands at $3,900, hardly earth-shattering. It’s a country ruled by Islamic law, whose official name is the Kingdom of Morocco. It’s still a somewhat closed society, where democracy is just taking root. But it’s also a country waiting for foreign investment and greater levels of free trade.
As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says in his book “Longitudes and Attitudes”: “The Muslim rage today stems partly from the fact that many Muslims live in poverty, repression and underdevelopment.” Nation-building through the World Cup is one answer to that, and it’s a lot cheaper and safer than what’s happening in Iraq.
As with any selection of a host country, the complex equations of politics were at play in FIFA’s decision. But for once, the world soccer body should have given this extraordinary opportunity to a country that could become a perfect example of harmony for everyone to see, especially in the Islamic world.
With loads of help from other nations, it should have happened. Morocco could have become an interesting test case. Security-wise, I honestly can’t imagine a Muslim militant crazy enough to attack there. It would be political suicide.
As it is, the next opportune time for an Islamic nation to host the World Cup will be a decade from now. Morocco will have to wait another 20, however, because of a FIFA policy of rotating the World Cup from continent to continent.
The bigwigs at FIFA also rejected the idea of a co-hosted World Cup when Libya and Egypt asked about it. I don’t see their rationale; Korea and Japan proved that it can be done successfully.
The World Cup holds the entire globe under its spell. In the future, FIFA should open its eyes and look at the broader picture because in today’s crazy world we need all the help we can get.
by Brian Lee