World Cup 2010: South Africa Lures Foreign Fans

South African organizers are rooting for all the big European powers to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. They will need all the good luck they can get as the countdown for the 2010 finals continues amid a severe economic downturn.

Travel cutbacks form a cloud over the financial success of the 2010 World Cup, and organizers need to act quickly. Selling the 2010 World Cup to soccer fans was already difficult because South Africa's great distance from major soccer markets and the country's reputation for violent crime. The worldwide economic crisis only makes it more difficult to attract fans from even the strongest supporter bases.

"There is a concern that people will not come in the numbers we expect from aboard," German Horst Schmidt, the chief organizer of the 2006 World Cup in Germany who is overseeing the 2010 preparations for FIFA, said recently. "It's very important to promote in the next months. Hopefully, the soccer people will still travel. It's important that they join and follow their teams and participate in the event."

On the positive side, the decline in value of the South African rand against the euro by 25 percent in 2008 means South Africa is a more attractive tourist destination to large fan groups such as those who support Germany and the Netherlands.

"Even if those fans have fewer pounds or euros in the pocket, they will still benefit from the exchange rate," said Danny Jordaan, the chief executive officer of the South African local organizing committee. "South Africa has become a cheaper destination."

Like all developing countries, South Africa has been hit hard by the economic crisis.

The 2009 Motocross Grand Prix of South Africa was canceled because of the economic situation.

The 2009 Confederations Cup - in which the United States will participate - is scheduled to go forward. Organizers do not expect lots of foreigners to attend this dress rehearsal.

"We did not calculate that we would have a high number of foreign fans coming to the Confederations Cup," said Jordaan. "We are going to have a tournament that encourages South Africans to follow the event - that decision was taken before the global economic downturn."

For the World Cup, organizers plan on distributing 120,000 free tickets to South African residents. Ticket prices for the available 3 million tickets range from $20 (cheapest Category 4 group stage tickets) to $900 (most expensive Category 1 final tickets).

"All South Africans contributed to bringing the FIFA World Cup to our country," says Jordaan, "so it is only befitting that we make tickets available to the ordinary fans at affordable prices."

All the free tickets will be in Category 4, a special category for South Africans. As many as 600,000 Category 4 tickets could be made exclusively available for local fans.

For all the difficulties posed by organizing the first African World Cup and all the delays in work on stadiums and infrastructure, it could have been a lot worse. If the crisis had hit 18 months earlier, there's no telling whether South Africa would have been able to organize the event.

U.S. Player Ratings

(2008 Concacaf qualifying averages)

Tim Howard (6.00)
Brad Guzan (5.25)

Oguchi Onyewu (6.20)
Carlos Bocanegra (6.00)
Heath Pearce (5.57)
Steve Cherundolo (5.50)
Dan Califf (5.50)
Frankie Hejduk (4.33)

Ricardo Clark (6.50)
Freddy Adu (6.40)
Michael Bradley (6.00)
Landon Donovan (6.00)
Pablo Mastroeni (6.00)
Sasha Kljestan (5.83)
Eddie Lewis (5.50)
Jose Francisco Torres (5.00)
Maurice Edu (4.00)

Clint Dempsey (6.60)
Jozy Altidore (6.33)
Brian Ching (6.00)
Eddie Johnson (5.50)

Kenny Cooper (7.00)
Charlie Davies (6.00)
Clarence Goodson (6.00)
Drew Moor (6.00)
Michael Parkhurst (6.00)
Chris Rolfe (6.00)
John Thorrington (6.00)
Jay DeMerit (5.00)
Michael Orozco (5.00)
Danny Szetela (5.00)
Jonathan Bornstein (4.00)
Conor Casey (4.00)
Davie Arnaud (-)
Chad Barrett (-)

*Less than 2 games rated.
(1=low; 5=average; 10=high.)

(This article originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Soccer America magazine.)  

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