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A Chance For The Neighbours

One of the cornerstones of South Africa’s bid campaign, ahead of being handed the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ finals, was its insistence that the tournament would be for the whole of Africa.
Platitudes of African fraternity, the use of some of the continent’s greatest footballing stars as bid ambassadors and consultations with some of the top leaders characterised the successful South African campaign, but in reality there is very little they can effectively do to live up to the slogan of “Africa’s bid”. Hosting rules do not allow matches to be played in neighbouring countries and pre-tournament training camps in other African nations are at the discretion of the 32 finalists.
It is, essentially, up to South Africa’s neighbours to try and make the most of the FIFA World Cup™ and many are seeking to embrace the event.
The worldwide focus on southern Africa that is expected in mid-2010 could be a major boon for tourism in countries like Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia and even Zimbabwe, despite its economic turmoil. But South Africa’s neighbours are seeking more than just a percentage of World Cup visitors to stay in their countries. They want some footballing action too.
For many, the idea is to offer state-of-the-art facilities for FIFA World Cup’” finalists to use as part of their preparations before they arrive in South Africa for the tournament. They are also looking to invite teams confident of qualification to visit in 2008 and 2009 to sample the African reality and expose players to the expected conditions.
Namibia’s capital Windhoek, for example, shares similar high-altitude characteristics to those found in Johannesburg while Maputo in Mozambique has the exact same muggy humidity that characterises the weather in Durban.
Mozambique is also making major infrastructure upgrades in a bid to cash in on pre-tournament friendlies and training camps. It has announced extensive plans to upgrade its airports, renew the fleet of its national airline, update railway links with South Africa and rebuild its main stadiums. The Machava stadium, where Pele once played for Brazil against former colonial power Portugal, is already being brought into line with world-class standards.
Botswana and Namibia both have committees in place to make the most of the FIFA World Cup™ on their doorsteps. Namibia is planning a major marketing campaign while Botswana is consulting English experts for ideas. Zimbabwe, whose international image has suffered in recent years, hopes to revive a once thriving tourism industry on the back of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. It plans to spend 67 million US dollars on sprucing up hotels and infrastructure. Harare’s Rufaro stadium is having a new artificial turf pitch installed and the 60,000-capacity National Sports stadium is currently closed for a major facelift.
Zimbabwe’s tourism minister Francis Nhema recently told his country’s hotel operators to toughen up. “Visitors are not interested in your problems — they are interested in the services that vou can provide. It is either you prove your worth or they move to the next country.”
South Africa’s 2010 local organising committee has also engaged its neighbours to help them maximise their potential. There has also contact at government level. A sports minister from the Southern African Development Community met with the interested countries recently to pick through their 2010 FIFA World Cup™ plans.
Indeed, the World Cup promises to be a major boost for the entire region, which already has a developed tourism infrastructure and will add to the experience for many thousands of fans who will travel to the tournament. Combining a few World Cup matches with a game park trip in Botswana or Namibia, for example, would guarantee a unique and extraordinary experience.