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South African backlash against FIFA

By Andrew Macdonell

Fick FUFA[1]The FIFA World Cup has looked great on television but rumbles of discontent are starting to make themselves heard inside South Africa.

Some have been fairly harmless and much of this sort of mickey-taking has inevitably been directed at the vuvuzela. For instance ‘The Spoof’ website reported that the early elimination of African teams was actually a conspiracy to silence the vuvuzela after all other efforts had failed.

But it has become more and noticeable how much more critical the more hard-edged satire has become, and most of it has been directed at FIFA itself.

Almost everybody agrees that FIFA is running a slick, efficient and well-practiced operation, so the criticism has focused on the draconian rights that FIFA have been granted.

The most obvious manifestation is the strict enforcement of the marketing and sponsorship rights in, what would normally be considered, public spaces.

In and around the stadiums, you can drink any beer that you like just as long as it is Budweiser – and pay handsomely for the privilege – while other food and drinks can cost more than twice the normal rate.

There have been murmurs about “neo-colonialism” and the fact that South Africa has bent over backwards to accommodate all the requirements of FIFA. For example, it has emerged that the normal foreign exchange regulations have been drastically relaxed for FIFA.

Then there have been the well-publicised attempts to squash even the most modest ambush marketing ploys. They have all been crushed without subtlety: just ask the Dutch girls with their orange mini-skirts, who ended up in detention for sporting unauthorised Bavaria brewery logos on their dresses.

The problem for FIFA is that this overzealous application of rules by officials has not been limited to ‘off-the-field’ issues. The inability of officials to apply common sense when applying FIFA rules has echoes on the field of play in some of the contentious refereeing decisions.

The numerous yellow and red cards, not to mention “goals that weren’t”, has turned out to be something of an unnecessary own goal by FIFA.

The resulting backlash against this strict control of all things 2010 has emerged mainly from the peddlers of satirical merchandise or from companies with a history of irreverent advertising.

Kulula.com, a South African low cost airline, is one company that found itself on the wrong side of FIFA for suggesting that it was the “unofficial national carrier of the ‘you know what’”. It appears that FIFA has control over, not just their logos and the brand image of the tournament, but of the year itself.

Kulula.com now pokes fun at this by referring to 2010 as “not next year, not last year, but somewhere in between”. In another gimmick, it has offered free flights to Sepp Blatter provided that he sends an email to [email protected]

Keen to keep the story alive, kulula were subsequently more than happy to offer a free flight to a dog called Sepp Blatter, whose owner cheekily took them up on the offer. Meanwhile small scale t-shirt manufacturers have got in on the act with shirts that also ridicule the draconian control exercised by FIFA.

T-shirts with slogans such as “FEEFA 2.010 WHIRLD CUP SOWTH AFRIKA”, “MAFIFIA” or the more blatant “Fick Fufa!” produced by the local satirical website www.hayibo.com are popular.

But in the broader context, these represent relatively minor gripes. The local organisers must be quietly satisfied that major controversies have been limited to Dutch mini-skirts or ‘on-the-field’ issues such as controversial refereeing decisions and the vagaries of the Jabulani ball.

They must also be thrilled that, even following the exit of the host team, South Africans have continued to pack out stadiums and give the tournament a noisy ‘thumbs up’.

The bottom line is that if you offer to host a party for the world at your house, expect to have a stonking good time.

However, as the satirists have warned, don’t be surprised if you wake up on the morning after with the mother of all hangovers, discover that your house has been repainted in garish colours and that someone has polished off your prize collection of 12-year-old-malts.

  • Lianachan

    I don’t remember seeing any articles in the UK press about tear gas and riot police being used to disperse stewards who were hanging around the ground after a match, waiting to be paid…

    • miked

      Hi Lianachan,

      I saw a few articles in the Guardian at the time, you can still find them from mid-June on their Archive. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t reported elswhere.

  • Angus Jura

    I can understand the South African discontent with FIFA, which is indeed a MAFIA by another name; Grabbers and Fixers, par excellence. I mean, they actually sat back and ALLOWED England to be eliminated by Germany, of all people! It’s just not cricket, though some of the games have been as sleep-inducing as a five-day test match!
    No; I reckon Sep Blatter should be treated to a 25 year holiday on Roben Island, with no time off for good behaviour!

  • Alibi

    Forcing people to drink American Budweiser is surely against the Geneva convention?

  • http://leekindness.com/ Lee Kindness

    “just ask the Dutch girls with their orange mini-skirts, who ended up in detention for sporting unauthorised Bavaria brewery logos on their dresses” – it was just orange dresses, with no logos…

  • Tam Glen

    By charging more than the locals could afford was FIFAs biggest blunder. They also managed to make the game look rediculas by not using technology. Meanwhile here at home our teams in will be playing in Europe before the League has started, and with most SPL games scheduled for the middle of winter, attendances are set to fall again, so it seems that to be a football administrator, you first of all need to be an idiot.

  • Joe P

    FIFA has cost South Africa a fortune in unnecessary expense!! One of the stadia had to rip up its turf and start again after FIFA said it was the wrong shade of green !