SA are hot favourites to host the 2010 World Cup, and having seen Bafana play Jamaica in a friendly at Athlone Stadium on Wednesday, that is a cause for real concern, writes Football365's Alan Tyers. Do you agree?
with your views.
The front page of this Thursday morning's Cape Times reports that the "Mother City launched South Africa's World Cup 2010 bid in great style", and those inside the stadium did indeed see an enjoyable first half and a passable second as a skilful but goal-shy South Africa set about a robust Jamaican side with some élan. The atmosphere inside was vibrant, good-natured and trouble-free.
However, it was the getting in that was the problem. The 12,000 capacity ground has one big grandstand along one side and an uncovered stand along the other. There's nothing at the open ends. Arriving at the ground half an hour early with tickets for the grandstand, we were turned away. The stand looked chock-a-block and nobody was being allowed through the turnstiles.
The police looked on, more or less unconcerned, as fans charged down a gate and poured in, rousing themselves eventually for a fairly half-hearted bit of pepper spraying and a baton charge. Hundreds of fans without tickets got in, those with tickets who were unwilling to charge down the gates didn't. They were told to try their luck over the other side at the small stand, where several hundred people were attempting to gain entry via six small turnstiles only two of which were open.
It was more of the same on that side of the ground, but after struggling through a nasty crush and dodging various scuffles, we got in. Plenty more paying customers didn't. In short, it was a total shambles. The South African FA had feared a poor turnout and many fans apparently believed that they would be able to turn up at the ground and pay their way in. In fact, tickets had been sold out by midday.
Obviously, it would be absurd to suggest that the South African FA had deliberately over-sold the tickets, but it does point to a level of mismanagement and incompetence endemic throughout all levels of South African football administration. This is a country where top-flight games are re-arranged hours before the expected kick-off times and international matches often clash with domestic games.
But Africa is going to host the 2010 World Cup and, unless FIFA go down the route of divvying it up between two or three North African countries, that means South Africa.
Before then, England come to play South Africa in a friendly in Durban on May 22. The image of a couple of thousand England fans who have travelled 6,000 miles to watch the game clutching their tickets in front of closed turnstiles is one to conjure with. Flight aside, South Africa is as cheap as chips and presumably easier to get into if you're known to the British police and their European counterparts than, say, Istanbul. If they can't go to Turkey, will the knuckle-draggers come here instead?
Still, England make trouble wherever we go, so that shouldn't necessarily be the benchmark. There is much to enjoy about football in South Africa, and in many ways it would be great for the country, and the continent, to host the World Cup. They have had the rugby and the cricket, both of which were organisational and sporting successes. However, football is a very different sport, supported by and run by a very different South Africa to those two minority interests.
If the people who run the show and the papers who report it are patting themselves on the back for Wednesday night, they've got a big problem. Sorting out the tickets for a good-natured, low-key friendly between Bafana and Jamaica in a small stadium proved beyond both the organisational abilities of the authorities, the competence of the police and the good sense of fans not to turn up without tickets and charge down the gates. God alone knows what a key World Cup clash involving a big European team or teams would be like.
Of course, 2010 is a long way off and this is a dynamic country that loves its football, has a government which will back a bid like this all the way and, if it can be harnessed, the power and will of its amazing people. Enemies of South Africa's bid will make much of the country's well-documented crime pandemic, but that will be a side issue for all but a very, very few unlucky visitors.
It's the host nation's organisational abilities that are the issue and, on that evidence, there's just no way they can run a World Cup. And unless they prove they can, FIFA should not give them the chance.