Beckham invited to help launch World Cup finals

South African organisers keen to exploit global appeal of injured England midfielder
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The Independent Online

David Beckham will be given the opportunity to participate in the spectacular opening ceremony to this summer's World Cup finals in South Africa.

Beckham, 34, is expected to take up an offer from Fabio Capello, the England manager, to travel with the official party to the Republic in June despite tearing his Achilles tendon last week. The injury, which Beckham, 34, picked up playing for Milan, is likely to keep him out of action for four to five months, denying him the chance of playing in a fourth World Cup finals.

But Beckham's familiar face could still feature prominently as he is to be invited to take part in the opening ceremony in Johannesburg on 11 June, alongside the likes of Alicia Keys, Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas. Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of the 2010 World Cup organising committee, said yesterday he hoped to involve Beckham in some capacity. Jordaan told The Independent: "He was at the draw. We will talk to him. I don't know his ability to move, so I will talk to him and find out. But we will talk to him."

"He still has huge appeal in South Africa. I saw that when he came out for the draw. Beckham is still a hugely popular and influential figure in our country. They wanted to see him on the pitch with an England shirt on. I have been reading that Capello wants him in and around the England team. We will talk to them to see whether he has time and whether it's possible. I am sure if he is around it will be OK."

The World Cup starts in 80 days' time and Jordaan is busy fighting fires. Security for supporters remains a major concern in a country in which there are on average 50 murders a day, while the rising costs asked by hotels and airlines have led to claims that fans are being exploited. Jordaan yesterday rattled off statistics to show that security is a relatively minor problem, and said the Government of South Africa was investigating claims of price hikes. His belief remains firm that neither problem will derail his project.

"Every organising committee has had to face these kind of questions. As an event organiser you have to brace yourself. If you don't want to be questioned, find some other job," he said.

Jordaan was in London for a meeting with England's 2018 bid team. Officially, the South African remains neutral concerning who should be awarded the 2018 tournament, but his decision to pass on his wisdom indicates on which side of the fence he is sitting.

"If they get everything right they should have a strong bid," Jordaan said. He emphasised, however, that any bid should recognise how football will be in eight years' time and not hark back to the past too much.

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