A shameful decision to make Africa the loser again

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We have nothing against the Germans, believe us. But Fifa's decision not to award the 2006 World Cup to South Africa is nothing less than a calamity, a triumph for the blinkered, introverted politics of sport over crying international reality.

We have nothing against the Germans, believe us. But Fifa's decision not to award the 2006 World Cup to South Africa is nothing less than a calamity, a triumph for the blinkered, introverted politics of sport over crying international reality.

Whatever arguments are used to explain the decision of Fifa's executive committee, the outcome is another slap in the face - not just for South Africa, but for an entire continent desperate for something to cheer. Germany will do a decent job to be sure, and the event will be a splendid showcase for a reunited country. But Germany does not need the World Cup. South Africa did. As the subsequent fall in the Johannesburg financial markets testifies, the country has been deprived of an injection of billions of dollars, the benefits of which would have been felt through the region.

Yes, there is a serious crime problem in South Africa; but that did not prevent it holding recent rugby and cricket world cups in exemplary fashion. Instead, the rich keep the goodies for themselves. Po-faced, Europe expresses the hope that South Africa will be awarded the competition in 2010; in other words, for another four years, let the Third World eat cake.

Of the failure of England's bid, little need be said. Like those of our footballers in the recent Euro 2000, its chances of success were always exaggerated. Naivety in the ways of football's politics off the field was as fatal as our naivety in playing tactics on it. Having reneged on a gentleman's agreement that in return for Germany's support for our holding Euro 1996 we would support Germany's application for the 2006 World Cup, we had no right to expect better. The hooligans in Charleroi merely set the seal on what was always inevitable.

Indeed, this time around, Germany's ease of access for England's least popular ambassadors was another, albeit smaller, argument for giving the competition to South Africa - a smaller one, of course, because there is no certainty England will even be good enough to qualify in 2006. If they do, however, a fracas or two in Charleroi will, for the beer-bloated louts, pale beside the prospect of refighting the Second World War on Hitler's home ground.

The case for the World Cup to be rotated among the continents, made in vain this time by Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, is surely unanswerable. If football is truly the world game, then every continent must have a turn. The next World Cup belonged to Africa. Instead a continent that for decades has drunk little but failure must now, quite unnecessarily, taste yet more.

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