Fifa backs 2010 organisers

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The Independent Football

Fifa has dismissed suggestions that South Africa may not be capable of hosting the World Cup in 2010.

Speaking in Johannesburg yesterday, the Fifa general secretary, Jérôme Valcke, pointed out that there were still some issues to be resolved ahead of the first-ever global showpiece on the African continent, but added that the general feeling was positive.

"I think we should forget this question now," Valcke replied when asked about another country stepping in. "It's been a lot of work since May 2004 and there is still a lot of work until 14 June 2009 and the World Cup 2010. I think it's a lot of issues and we have to make sure we are working on them all the time. The main issues are security, transportation, accommodation, overlay; it's all what you need to host a World Cup.

"It's normal, because there is not a single country ready 18 months prior to the World Cup. When we had the Confederations Cup in Germany, it's where we discovered that lots of things were not working.

"There is no question that it was the right decision to bring the World Cup to South Africa."

However, Fifa is concerned the world economic downturn will affect the number of visitors to the finals. Horst Schmidt, Fifa's consultant to the 2010 World Cup organisers, said heavy promotion of the tournament was needed in the coming months to persuade fans to travel for the tournament.

"There is a concern that people will not come in the numbers we expect from aboard," said Schmidt, who was chief organiser of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

South Africa estimates that 450,000 visitors will travel for the 2010 tournament, although the figure quoted by officials varies from a high of 900,000 down to 300,000.

"It's very important to promote in the next months. Hopefully the football people will still travel. It's important that they join and follow their teams and participate in the event," Schmidt said.