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Cairo - South Africa's success in securing the 2010 World Cup was hardly a surprise to anyone in Egypt, but it was the vote that disappointed the secretary general of the Egyptian Soccer Federation: Not one supporter of Egypt's bid.
"I can't comprehend what's happened. I never felt that our chances were very great, but I never imagined that we wouldn't get a single vote," Adly al-Qaei said. "We had all the capabilities to organise the tournament, but we couldn't convince a single member."
It only took one round of voting among the 24 members of FIFA's executive board for a host to be named: South Africa received 14 votes and Morocco 10. Egypt did not receive any, despite their second-highest marks in a technical report in the run-up to the decision.
"We all felt that South Africa had the best chance," al-Qaei said in Cairo, noting how South Africa had narrowly lost out on the 2006 World Cup. But he said Egypt apparently just wasn't able to connect at all with FIFA board members.
Egyptian television carried the FIFA announcement live from Zurich. Afterwards, three gloomy sports announcers and analysts fielded callers' complaints and disappointed comments.
Ahmed Shobeir, a popular former Egyptian goalkeeper and member of the original Egyptian team that filed the bid said the Egyptian attempt was mired by problems from the start.
"This was expected from the beginning," Shobeir said.
South Africa, he said, were "very active and worked hard from the very beginning, while we were very weak when it came to communicating with FIFA members."
When the Egyptians made their final pitch on Friday to the FIFA board, Egyptian movie star Omar Sharif - in Zurich to press Egypt's case - joked that he'd "lit a candle for St Rita, the patron saint of lost causes."
A FIFA technical evaluation for the 2010 bid had ranked South Africa first and Egypt second.
Egypt's bid, that report said, had a "total commitment" from the government and huge public enthusiasm. The country, it said, was capable of organising a "very good" event.
The FIFA team noted "a number of inconsistencies between the bidding file and what was actually presented during the inspection." Egypt lacks World Cup-standard stadiums and needed to improve the pitch quality at its training facilities, the report said.
It said Egypt's bidders had a good ticketing policy, but needed to revise their budget. FIFA also praised Egyptian authorities' security plans.
Egyptian officials had taken heart in the technical report, hoping they could pick up support if the other North African countries were eliminated in the early stages of voting.
On Friday, Tunisia dropped out of the World Cup chase and the field dropped to three - South Africa, Morocco and Egypt when FIFA on Saturday excluded Libya from the vote because it had not meet "all relevant conditions."
In their final pitch to FIFA's executive committee in Zurich, Egypt pointed out on Friday that they were on target to have 12 stadiums ready for the 2006 African Nations Cup.
Egypt tentatively had budgeted $1.5 billion to prepare for the tournament, with $865 million of that earmarked for building and renovating stadiums. However, Egyptian organisers estimated the World Cup would create jobs and bring in nearly $2 billion from visiting soccer fans' spending on hotels, travel, meals and souvenirs.
FIFA had decided earlier the 2010 event would take place in Africa - which has never hosted a World Cup - and accepted bids only from African nations. - Sapa-AP