Jul 092010

By Barry Black.

The world watches on.

More than half the earth’s population will tune in to watch or listen to the World Cup, from New York to Sydney and London to Beijing. The world’s starlets display their skills as all set out to prove they’re the best. The cameras show off the glitzy new stadia of the host country. As the world focuses on South Africa this year, it will be no different. Considering the joy and happiness it brings and the revenue it produces, it can’t be a bad thing, can it?

The South African Government has invested £3.1 billion or $4.5 billion in this tournament, building new stadia and city squares where fans can congregate to watch their heroes play with their nations’ hopes and shirts on their backs, the South African government has spent millions upon millions improving transport networks and modernising cities where the news cameras will be. This sounds like a good and responsible government getting its country ready for its summer of fame, doesn’t it?

In a nation where 47.1% of people are in poverty, 54% of citizens have not received an adequate education, where crime statistics, especially those for rape, are among the worst in the world and where the average life expectancy is fifty, is there no better way to spend £3.1 billion?

Soccer City in Johannesburg , where the final will be held, has had a major re-modelling including a new stadium, big screens and fan zones throughout This is what the city needs, right?

Wrong. This city’s annual murder rate is around 5,000; the rape rate is double that. With a literacy rate of over 50%, this city does not need a multi-million pound soccer city – it needs more police, better schools and decent housing. The world has decided to endorse a nation like this? A nation which has invested more in a soccer city than it has in healthcare since 2008?

How many times during the tournament will the cameras wheel away from the glitz and glamour of the new complexes, new stadia and new government buildings to show us what this nation’s problems really are? None, is my guess.

So, as you watch this summer and a nation erupts into tears of joy and happiness as the ball crosses the line, take a moment to think of those disadvantaged South Africans who commit crime just to make ends meet; think of the girl whose rapist has escaped punishment because of the tired and broken justice system; think of those people’s tears. Real tears.

And when the captain of the winning team lifts the trophy and the whole of Holland or the entire population of Spain explodes with joy, take a minute to think of the losers. No, not the runners-up on a state of the art football field in Johannesburg; the real losers – the South African people.