FIFA puts vendors offsides at World Cup

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FIFA puts vendors offsides at World Cup

JOHANNESBURG - At any South African football match, the scent of grilled meats and simmering stews wafts through the gates as vendors serve up chicken feet, sheep head and sausages to arriving fans.

But World Cup visitors will receive a more sanitized experience as FIFA’s stringent commercial rights put a stop to the makeshift kitchens run by informal traders who normally ply their wares outside stadiums.

“This is a huge setback for us, given the fact that there will be no other games during the World Cup where we can go,” said Amos Ndlovu, who has sold meats outside Johannesburg’s Ellis Park stadium for 14 years.

“We are going to lose income. These FIFA people only care about themselves and their rights,” said the burly man from the shanty town area of Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg.

Ndlovu’s speciality are thick sausages known as wors and a spicy homemade relish called chakalaka that he buys in bulk a day before the match. Early morning on match day, he makes a 30-kilometer (20-mile) drive in his dilapidated van to get a good spot near the gate and set up his table and small gas stove. A big match day can triple his weekly income.

“We have permits from the city of Johannesburg. They have been happy with us all along, then this FIFA came,” said Ndlovu angrily.

The 51-year-old estimated he would lose potential earnings of 20,000 rand ($3,400) during the World Cup. He said his services are enjoyed by rich and poor, especially fans who come straight to stadiums from their jobs and can’t afford restaurant food.

“This is a uniquely South African experience. We were looking forward to sharing it with foreign fans who have no idea how a sheep head is served,” lamented Ndlovu.

His sentiments were shared by Sam Khasibe, head of the National Traders Forum, an organization formed to discuss the plight of informal traders during the World Cup. FIFA regulations stipulate that only its commercial partners can trade and promote their products within 800 meters of stadiums and fan parks in the country’s nine host cities.

According to FIFA lawyers, transgressors will be jailed or fined, based on the company’s profit.

“FIFA is trampling on our rights. This is supposed to be Africa’s World Cup but how can that be true if Africans are not allowed to do business during the event?” said Khasibe.

A local concession company, Headline Leisure, will be the official provider of food in and around the stadiums, according to FIFA. The cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town said accredited hawkers will be allowed to sell their wares at non-FIFA zones.

“We have created a database of informal traders in the city, so that they are known and given an opportunity to benefit from the event, without interfering with FIFA commercial rights,” said Sibongile Mazibuko, who heads the office in Johannesburg, site of the opening and final matches.

Mazibuko said the vendors will be allowed access to public viewing areas not linked to FIFA.

Some vendors who trade away from the restricted zones are gearing up for a bumper season. Elliot Chitungo, who sells hand-carved wooden animals and crafts along the busy stretch of road between the eastern host city of Nelspruit and Kruger National Park, said he may hire extra people to help increase production.

“It is better to be overloaded than to be flat-footed. We are expecting a lot of visitors coming through this road to Kruger Park,” he said. AFP
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