Africa won’t lose slots despite poor showing
Johannesburg: Africa should have no fear of losing places in future World Cups despite the continent’s weak performance at this tournament, FIFA said on Saturday.
Five of Africa’s six qualifying nations went out of the World Cup in the first round, a particular disappointment given the continent is hosting the tournament for the first time.
But any talk of docking Africa a slot was ill-judged, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke told Reuters.
“There was not a single time since the beginning of the World Cup, not a single minute after the elimination of most of the African teams, where it was discussed that we should think about the number of slots,” he said.
Such a suggestion, which had been raised as a possibility in some media circles, would go against FIFA’s push to bolster soccer on the world’s poorest continent, Valcke added in a brief interview at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg.
“If we want to develop football in Africa to make sure that African football is stronger day-after-day or year-after-year, it would be a wrong signal to say in the meantime we want to reduce the number of teams participating in the World Cup.”
Africa has five fixed places but took a sixth this time as South Africa hosted the event. The FIFA official said stronger national leagues, more TV coverage and increased commercial partnerships were all needed to boost soccer in Africa.
Despite Africa’s poor showing, teething problems with transport at the start and some empty seats in the stadiums, soccer bosses said the organisation of the tournament had been a roaring success confounding pessimists’ predictions of a flop.
“If on the 11th of July it’s the same as today, it is a perfect World Cup,” Valcke told an earlier news briefing called to analyse the tournament at the halfway stage.
Chief local organiser Danny Jordaan said the Africans’ performances on the pitch were an undoubted dampener after only Ghana made it through to the last 16.
Algeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Nigeria all joined hosts South Africa in exiting the tournament at the first hurdle.
“Bafana Bafana tried gallantly but in the end they didn’t make it,” Jordaan said. “Our only hope now is Ghana. That is not what we envisaged at the beginning... but that is football.”
Yet halfway through, from an organisational point of view, “we are 100 percent achieving our expectations,” Jordaan added.
FIFA’s Valcke acknowledged controversy over the new Jabulani ball, which players and coaches alike have criticised for its unpredictable swerve and higher-than-normal bounce.
Free-kick takers in particular have struggled to control the ball, with plenty of shots ballooning wildly.
“There is nothing more important than that,” Valcke said at the briefing, fingering a ball in front of him, and promising that FIFA and the manufacturers would examine it after the tournament to draw lessons for the future.
According to the latest FIFA figures, attendances are running at an average of 47,600 per match in South Africa, below the 52,491 in Germany four years ago.
The 101 goals in the 48 first round games make an average of 2.10 per game -- below the 2.30 in Germany and the record low of 2.21 in Italy in 1990.