Fifa have used an old trick best illustrated in that tale about a vain emperor and a gullible citizenry, says Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya.
Pretoria - This time four years ago, South Africans were abuzz with a certain “Philip” on everyone’s lips. “Philip is here” – the bastardisation of the line “Feel it, it is here” – is now in Brazil and it seems not everyone has rolled out the red carpet for our Phil.
The anti-World Cup sentiments in Brazil require that South Africans reflect, four years on, what the tournament has really done for South Africa.
It seems the only beneficiaries of the romantically couched “first World Cup on African soil” were the construction companies, their allied industries such as cement makers and makers of dyed sugar water and hamburgers.
As was the case with the arms deal, the promised trickled-down benefits of spending billions on a month-long bonanza have not happened.
The promised foreign investment and jobs did not materialise. Instead, the costs kept soaring far beyond what the taxpayer had been told.
Fifa and its associates have used an old trick best illustrated in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of a vain emperor and a gullible citizenry who do not tell their ruler and his tricksters that they cannot see the benefits they insisted were there.
We have a government and a football association that, to this day, insist that by spending billions to host the World Cup, South Africa gained something of material value as well as an investment in the perception management of the country.
They show us the stadiums we already had and others that have become white elephants, and label them our “World Cup legacy”.
They have used that tired line that the cup fostered national cohesion and demonstrated that South Africa was not just another Third World country.
I am not sure how national cohesion is fostered when those who ordinarily support the game and are in the majority of the population are excluded by astronomical ticket prices.
The school on the piece of land where the Mbombela Stadium was built, and which was demolished so as to make space for the ground, has been rebuilt elsewhere with better facilities.
That, however, does not count as a tournament benefit because all South African children deserve better schools anyway.
I could be wrong, but it does not appear that our country is awash with tourists who were so captured by the World Cup in 2010 that they have not stopped coming to South Africa.
Truth is, with the exception of the construction industry or other corporates that have bought themselves into the monopoly of their names being the only ones mentioned in association with the tournament, South Africa has not benefited from hosting the World Cup.
Even promised development has not happened. We are sitting with potentially the worst Bafana side since readmission.
As the people of Brazil are showing now, sporting multinationals such as Fifa have to be reined in.
While the anti-World Cup lobby will probably lose the battle, it will hopefully knock some conscience into Fifa, who have never-ending conditions that require states to part with huge chunks of their budgets to upgrade infrastructure or stadiums.
I am not holding my breath that Fifa has a heart.
I can understand the hold the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have on nations (the modern, international political economy is based on the state’s credit-worthiness in the eyes of these lenders and the rating institutions), but it is puzzling why and how easily states surrender their sovereignty to Sepp Blatter and his band of self-ordained Zurich patricians who have colonised football.
Reflecting on the World Cup is not purely for nostalgic reasons. There already are on-off murmurs of Durban bidding to host the Olympics in the future. Knowing what we know from how the World Cup promised much but ended up taking from the poor, we should discourage such talk at its embryonic stage.
We have learnt from the World Cup that there is no point in putting up appearances and inviting and being invited by the mink-and-manure set when we return home to children who die falling into pit latrines and young people who will never fulfil their potential because they have to drop out of university because their unemployed parents cannot afford to keep them there.
That is the crux of the matter.
Countries with huge social needs and limited budgets should not be spending billions on vanity projects such as the World Cup or the Olympics.
This is far simpler than understanding or explaining the off-side rule.
* Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an executive editor at the Pretoria News. Follow him on Twitter @fikelelom