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2014 bidding is now open
by Amin George Forji
2006-12-17 10:40:51
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The Executive Committee of the world football governing body, FIFA, have released the time schedule for the forthcoming 2010 World Cup in South Africa. According to the programme, the competition will run for exactly one month from June 11th to July 11th.

The 2010 World Cup will be officially set rolling on November 23rd 2007, in Durban, South Africa, when FIFA conducts its preliminary round draw, classifying all the continental competing countries into various groups.

Hosts South Africa will have an avant-goût of the competition when she hosts the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2009, which is traditionally hosted by the would-be World Cup host. Five 2010 World Cup stadia have been chosen for the competition, notably Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Ellis Park in Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Rustenburg.

FIFA’s Executive Committee also clarified the long awaited concern about the qualifying format to be used. It was doubted whether host South Africa would automatically qualify or have to take part in the qualifying campaign. Moreover, it remained uncertain whether Italy, the current cup holder, would also automatically qualify for the next World Cup.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced that they resolved to adopt the qualifying format of the last World Cup in Germany. This means that Italy will have to play the qualifying matches, meanwhile South Africa’s place is guaranteed, thus becomes the first country to qualify. In addition, this is the first time the African continent will be represented by six countries.

When Cameroon fell to England in the 1990 quarter-finals, Africa had just two tickets. That number increased to three in 1994 and then five in 1998. The remaining 26 tickets will be distributed as follows: Asian and Oceania region, 5, Europe 13 and CONCACAF and South American region 8.

Apart from Europe and Africa, there would be play-offs in all the other zones. Central and North America, known as the CONCACAF zone, is disposed with 3,5 places, while the South American region has 4,5 places. The best losers from the two zones will take part in the play-offs to determine the eighth participant. The situation is the same in the Asian and Oceania zones. Both regions have five places in whole, and there will be a play-off to determine the fifth participant.

Blatter, while praising South Africa for the progress made so far, said that they have asked them to “bring a little bit of fire to the preparations.” South Africa plans to have five of the proposed ten stadia ready by December 2008 for the Confederations Cup in 2009, while the remaining five will be completed before October 2009.

He also announced that the bidding process for the 2014 World Cup has now been officially launched, and that South American countries are welcome to send in their applications. This continues FIFA’s Executive Body decision in 2002 to rotate the competition between the various continents. He was quick to warn that despite the resolution of 2002, FIFA will not hesitate to transfer the hosting rights to North America if no strong contender shows up from South America.

"We have said that the 2014 World Cup will be staged in South America, but if there is no candidate strong enough then we would go north instead as the logical thing. We took the decision to ask South America's ten associations if they wanted to organise the World Cup and now nine of them have come out in favour of Brazil. However, Brazil would still have to undergo the same scrutiny as previous bids, “ Blatter explained.

The amazing slogan of the 2010 jamboree reading "Win with Africa in Africa" maintains the decision that the competition would not just be a South African legacy, but also an African legacy. The country’s president, Thabo Mbeki, while officially launching the logo of the tournament in July in Berlin at the close of the 2006 World Cup, joked that he hopes the tournament will be not only become the best ever, but also one in which the Cup is won by an African team for the very first time.

President Mbeki further compared Africa's hosting of the World Cup to the end of Apartheid in South Africa and called the tournament "a beacon of hope" for Africa. He also said it would end Western hegemony in the game, which drew wild applause from anxious fans, "Africa is ready, Africa's time has come, Africa is calling. Come to Africa in 2010," he said.

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