Football: World Cup Legacy in South Africa?

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

Major sporting events, such as the FIFA World Cup, are supposed to leave behind them a legacy in the host country concerned.

But what has happened in the case of South Africa following the World Cup there in 2010?

Sport is supposed to bring people together, especially football. However, in South Africa, despite the end of apartheid, there still appears to be a sporting divide between the majority black and minority white communities.

A recent BBC report has highlighted this disparity in the case of the largest and fastest growing black township of Khayelitsha, south of Cape Town and overlooked by the famous Table Mountain.

In Khayelitsha, football dominates the scene, with hundreds of teams, thousands of players and five football associations. However, there is a yawning gap between football in this township and the rest of the football world in South Africa.

This is despite the establishment of a FIFA Football for Hope Centre during the 2010 South Africa FIFA World Cup, as well as initiatives from the local elite team, Cape Town City FC.

In fact, for the millions who live in Khayelitsha, football remains an escape from the hardships of every-day life and does not offer players an opportunity for pursuing a sporting career, with all the benefits that come with it.

It is reported that, because Khayelitsha is in the top ten for crime in South Africa, with around 3,500 physical crimes, 192 of them being murder, that football scouts, looking for new talent, do not venture there and to other townships, because it is considered too dangerous for them to do so!

Instead, they go to the football academies in the more affluent and, therefore, safer areas of South Africa.

Thus, although football helps to keep kids off the streets and in school – 50% of the Khayelitsha township population is under the age of twenty – there are many barriers to them as aspiring young players, despite their talent and potential.

According to one long-term resident of Khayelitsha, there is no legacy from the 2010 South Africa World Cup in the townships.

The FIFA slogan of ‘For the Game. For the World’ seems, therefore, to ring hollow in post-apartheid South Africa!

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘ian.blackshaw@orange.fr’