An associate professor of history at Michigan State University, in the US, and visiting Fulbright professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Peter Alegi has questioned whether the R40-billion spent on branding South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup was justified.
He questions whether the intended message was received and, if so, how it was interpreted.
“It seems there is anecdotal evidence that the World Cup reinforced colonial images of Africa as a place of animals, tribes and safaris,” Alegi said at the German Academic Exchange Service’s World Cup legacy lecture, hosted by the South African Institute of Inter-national Affairs late last month.
He stressed that South Africa was interpreted
as a modern, democratic, technologically
advanced, business-friendly and attractive tourist destination, which was the centrepiece of the marketing strategy for the 2010 spectacular.
President Jacob Zuma outlined last month that the people, both black and white, were the true stars of the tournament.
He pointed out that the World Cup tournament revealed that South Africans were capable of working together in unity and proved that they were proud to be citizens of this country.
“South Africans truly defied stereotypes during this tournament. We saw young white South Africans, proudly wearing their national colours, walking around singing and blowing their vuvuzelas outside Soccer City.
This was at Soccer City, near Soweto, which could, in the past, have been said to be a no-go zone owing to the compartmentalisation of our residential areas, and even sports, as a legacy of apartheid – and then the Blue Bulls went to Soweto, crushing even more stereotypes,” said Zuma
Alegi said that the monumentality of the stadiums, such as Moses Mabhida, in KwaZulu-Natal, which has reshaped the urban landscape of the city, had projected brand South Africa effectively to the global community. However, he also questioned whether the global community had explored South Africa during the tournament, or the countries of any other FIFA World Cup host nation.
Some of his Michigan students, who followed Argentina during the event, shared the view that there was no coverage of South Africa and the matches could have been taking place in Sydney or Dubai.
“We all know that FIFA left South Africa with $3,2-billion, tax free, while the country got between $70-million and $100-million from tickets sales, which is an interesting division of revenue.”
Alegi stressed, however, that it would be the long-term cost and sustainability of the stadiums that would indicate some of the problems relating to the legacy of the World Cup.
“The Peter Mokaba stadium, in Polokwane, Mbombela stadium, in Nelspruit, and the Nelson Mandela stadium, in Port Elizabeth, do not have a Premier Soccer League team using the facility – but all are billon-rand arenas.”
The Moses Mabhida and Cape Town stadiums have high maintenance costs of about R50-million a year and, in a recent statement, the management team of the Moses Mabhida stadium said that it was still building a business case for the venue.
Alegi criticised the disproportionate investment in a commercial, elite sport, with no corresponding investment at grassroots level.