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The 2010 World Cup is set to kick-off tomorrow in South Africa, and this represents the first time that the World Cup has been held in the African continent.

The people of Africa believe that such an important event being held in Africa finally represents an international acknowledgement of their status and ability to host such a tournament following long years of white colonialist oppression (although a section of society believes that this oppression still exists but in a new and different form.)

The World Cup tournament is more than a mere “sporting” event; it is a strange magical mix of industry, politics, media, economy, and culture.

The International Federation of Association Football, more commonly known as FIFA, is the official world body responsible for organizing the World Cup, and its power, status, and importance surpasses that of some governments around the world, and FIFA president Sepp Blatter receives the same treatment as heads of state when he makes official visits. Whenever FIFA launches a campaign to raise public awareness, this has huge international impact, as can be seen in FIFA’s campaigns against drugs and racism.

Today FIFA is making hundreds of millions of dollars from granting World Cup sponsorship rights to a limited number of companies, in addition to “official sponsorship” deals with electronics companies, bus operators, and even the official football for the World Cup tournament. This is not to mention the largest slice of the cake that comes from selling television broadcasting rights. Others are also trying to “ride” this wave, and so we find prestigious banks like “UBS” and “Goldman Sachs” and others, providing detailed reports offering accurate analysis of the financial and economic impact that this tournament will have on the host country and its markets, as well as the economic impact on the countries taking part in the World Cup. Companies that are not officially affiliated to the World Cup and so are not allowed to utilize the term “World Cup” or the official World Cup logo attempt to get past this in their promotions, for example by saying “win a chance to watch the greatest football tournament in Africa.” Everybody is trying to take advantage of the World Cup and attract the largest possible number of people.

As for the Arabs, some countries have begun to realize the potential benefits of hosting such a huge international event; however, these countries are not aware of the preparations and responsibilities of hosting such a huge tournament. This is also an opportunity to upgrade the infrastructure of the host country, and this is what happened in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and most recently South Africa, after they won the bid to host the World Cup.

Following the embarrassment that took place after Morocco and Egypt failed to win the 2010 bid to host the World Cup, Qatar submitted an impressive bid [to host the 2018 World Cup] however I believe FIFA is still not comfortable with the idea of small countries hosting such an important tournament, and this is because the success of tournaments such as this depend upon a huge local turnout. Qatar put forward a number of guarantees promising to organize the best World Cup in history; however competition to host the 2018 World Cup is fierce, especially from England, the birthplace of football, which has not hosted a World Cup in more than 45 years.

In any case, enjoy the 2010 South Africa World Cup!

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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