Blatter blasts Old World over 'anti-Africa prejudice'
SEPP Blatter hit back yesterday at the European critics who are drawing attention to South Africa's safety record before the World Cup finals this summer.
In an outburst that betrayed the Fifa president's concerns over slow ticket sales as fans shy away from the tournament because of security fears and high travel and hotel costs, Blatter accused "the Old World" of prejudice and lack of respect for the hosts, as well as stealing Africa's best players for European leagues.
"Every year 11 million tourists go to South Africa and nobody says they should not go there," he said. "It's a kind of anti-Africa prejudice. I think there is still in the so-called Old World a feeling that 'why the hell should Africa organise a World Cup'? Colonialists over the past 100 years have gone to Africa and taken out all the best things -- and now they are taking all the best footballers. There's no respect."
The World Cup in South Africa was Blatter's lifelong dream, a pet project that he nursed through doubts and worries that the country would not be able to cope with the huge costs and infrastructure development needed, as well as playing host to tens of thousands of fans from around the globe.
While the stadiums are more or less complete and public transport has been transformed, fears over safety have been persistent and were heightened last month when the Togo squad bus was fired on in Angola by terrorists, who killed two squad officials as the party made their way to compete in the African Cup of Nations.
Blatter has been incensed by senior figures in the game who have spoken out against South Africa's crime record. Uli Hoeness, the president of Bayern Munich and a former West Germany forward, said that awarding the tournament to South Africa was "the biggest wrong decision" Fifa has made and Phil Brown, the Hull City manager, said that the terrorist attack on the Togo team put a question mark against this summer's finals.
However, Blatter said: "It is nonsense to combine what has happened in Angola, a terrorist attack for political reasons, and mix it up with the World Cup in South Africa." (© The Times, London)