The Beverly Hills hotel in Umhlanga Rocks, just up the coast on the outskirts of Durban, is as glitzy as it sounds, so where else would the England squad have been based last week? On the morning of the match against South Africa, an impressive crowd of all shapes, sizes, colours and gender had gathered outside in the hope of catching even a glimpse of David Beckham and the footerati.
"Couldn't he come to the window and wave to us?" enquired a matronly middle-class white woman. "Even the Queen does that, doesn't she?" It was tempting to suggest that England's captain, to quote Bill Shankly in a different context, was much more important than that. An appearance by Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of South Africa's bid to stage the 2010 World Cup, created a wave of excitement, but only on the basis that he might know what was going on: "What time are they going out, Mr Jordaan?" "Are they going to practise this morning?"
Mr Jordaan, influential as he was in securing England as prestigious opponents for Thursday's showpiece friendly, had no responsibility for their training arrangements. "I'm sorry, I really don't know, maybe about 11 o'clock."
"They expect me to have all the answers," he sighed a few minutes later, once seated away from the madding crowd in a quiet café. He does have them, however, as soon as the conversation turns to 2010. Over the next 12 months, until Fifa announce whether South Africa have succeeded where they failed so narrowly, and controversially, in missing out to Germany for the next World Cup, Jordaan will be asked the same questions over and over again, and will have the answers off pat.
He is pretty fluent already, hesitating only in describing the dreadful day three years ago on which it was learnt that the Germans had scraped home, because, it transpired, Charles Dempsey of New Zealand had abstained under what he claimed was unbearable pressure, instead of voting for South Africa as mandated by his Oceania confederation.
"I saw Dempsey the day before the election, carrying his golf bag and whistling and looking very relaxed. So it was a surprise to me that he claimed to be so stressed. But that's behind us. History will attempt to record what happened, and we're now focused on 2010."
If it is odd to be talking about 2006 in the past, that is the way with modern competitions, which seem to require more forward planning and investment than a military campaign. This time, of course, the issue is clearer in that Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, having failed to deliver on his previous pro-mise to South Africa, has persuaded world football's governing body to allocate all future final tournaments to a specific continent. For 2010, Africa will therefore be granted the finals for the first time, and South Africa are the current warm favourites, ahead of Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Nigeria and Libya.
A war chest of £7m has already been raised from major sponsors, who will have an important role to play throughout, since gate receipts will not be as high as in a European tournament. South Africa can also point to successful rugby union and cricket World Cups, the former having left a legacy of impressive stadiums from 1995, which will now be further improved. Transport and hotel accommodation should not be a problem for a country with such a booming tourist industry, and only the spectre of inner-city crime is a negative.
That is where government support comes in, and with Nelson Mandela adopting such a high profile last week, Jordaan believes it is a given: "It is a key factor for any World Cup or Olympics. Questions like the safety of people in the country, visas and taxes, are the responsibility of government."
Jordaan, a former student activist and ANC official, believes that football cuts across the boundaries that divided his country for so long - an argument borne out by the racial mix in the stands at Thursday's game. "Soccer is the glue of the nation," he said. "We think a World Cup in our country would strengthen the non-racial character of society - a society that came from a past almost of war between black and white. To take a nation at war with itself on a united path forward, you need major challenges and objectives, and the World Cup is one such objective. The rugby World Cup here contributed to that, a celebration of black and white."
The Mandela factor and concept of the fledgling rainbow nation added greatly to the allure of that tournament, and those cards are still being played eight years on; hence the early-morning alarm call for most of the England squad last Wednesday to meet the great man in Johannesburg. No snub was perceived - nor intended - in eight players deciding to maximise their beauty sleep rather than attending.
Frankly, there was only one who mattered, and to have had him featured the previous evening on newscasts all round the world endorsing South Africa's bid was a huge boost for Jordaan and his team: "It was wonderful. You couldn't get a better endorsement. David Beckham is not only a football icon, or even a sports icon, he is moving beyond sport, a fashion trend-setter and one of the biggest icons in the world."
In 2010, when he will be 35, he might even be around in some capacity or other to give a regal wave to the ladies.Reuse content