Sun, May 16, 2004 - Page 23 News List

S Africa to host World Cup

REUTERS , ZURICH

South Africa has won the right to host the 2010 soccer World Cup -- the first to be held on the African continent.

FIFA's executive committee chose South Africa, the slight favourites, on the first round of voting. The other candidates to host the 32-team finals were Morocco and Egypt.

Libya's bid was stood down by FIFA on Saturday because it did not meet the criteria and Tunisia pulled out on Friday after being refused the option of co-hosting the event with Libya.

The World Cup is the biggest sporting event outside the Summer Olympics and soccer the world's most popular sport.

Almost four years ago Germany controversially won the race to host the 2006 finals by a single vote after Oceania delegate Charles Dempsey defied orders to vote for South Africa.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter made it clear then that he wanted Africa to get the World Cup at the next opportunity as world soccer's governing body decided to rotate the finals around the continents.

South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 2003 Cricket World Cup successfully but the soccer World Cup, which began in 1930, has never been held on the continent.

Former president Nelson Mandela said last week that hosting the 2010 World Cup finals would be a perfect gift for the country as it celebrates 10 years of democracy.

He said it would add 3 billion rand (US$423 million) to the economy and create more than 150,000 jobs in a country where unemployment is over 30 percent and poverty is rife.

South Africa sent a high-profile mission to Switzerland, led by Mandela, President Thabo Mbeki and Nobel Peace prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and was the slight favourite.

The country's hopes of success were boosted at the start of the month after FIFA inspectors rated its facilities as the best of five competing countries.

South Africa's bid was described as "excellent," while those of north African rivals Egypt and Morocco were "very good."

Morocco suffered a major blow by having questions raised about the country's lack of infrastructure.

Libya, whose hopes of co-hosting the finals with Tunisia had been repeatedly slapped down by Blatter, were taken out of the running by FIFA yesterday before voting even began.

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