Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Monday, 29 June 2009 12:39 UK

South Africa passes World Cup test

By Piers Edwards
BBC, Johannesburg

South African fan
Not everybody liked the vuvuzela trumpets

The final whistle has been blown at the Confederations Cup in South Africa - Brazil walked off with the cup after beating the USA and Spain beat South Africa into third place after extra time.

However, beyond what went on on the pitch, the point of the tournament was to act as a dress rehearsal for next year's World Cup.

So has South Africa passed the test?

During the competition, there were international complaints about the vuvuzela, the long, plastic trumpet loved by local fans.

But in truth, this isn't really an issue - it is part of South African culture and seemingly here to stay.

However, Danny Jordaan, who heads the Local Organising Committee, says the event has thrown up some fundamental issues that he is keen to address.

"The first one is the Park and Ride which is a new addition to South African sport," he told the BBC.

"Secondly, we have to work harder on getting our fans into the stadium early. These are the two that we have to deal with for the World Cup but, overall, we're happy with what we've achieved so far".

Room for improvement

Happy they may be, but it is no surprise that Mr Jordaan is concerned by the Park and Ride for it has been shambolic at times and needs real improvements.

The state of the pitches here has also been a problem but that is easy to fix - as organisers are unlikely to play rugby matches on them days before the World Cup.

South African football supporters
Getting to the stadiums was a problem for some fans

That was the case ahead of the visit of the British Lions, which in terms of audience numbers is far bigger than the Confederations Cup.

Some 35,000 rugby fans are in the country, stretching South Africa's air capacity to the full.

Tom Corcoran, a British travel agent, says it has not been an easy ride.

"Of our clients, about a third of them have lost their luggage at the airport. It doesn't bode well."

"It has been chaos at the airports, and it is small numbers now - about a tenth of what we are expecting next year.

"A lot of the internal flights are used for business travel so the airlines are used to passengers with just hand luggage, but these guys are international travellers so they are coming with 20kg each.

"The airlines seemed to think there was too much luggage for the planes so they had to leave bags behind," he said.

Yet the real problem was that it took two or three days for the bags to arrive, so leaving some fans stranded in shorts during this fierce South African winter.

'Not good for South Africa'

Equally concerning has been the various thefts, with possessions having gone missing from the media centre, as well as already reported incidents involving the Brazilian and Egyptian camps.

Dancers at the opening of the Confederation Cup
Look at the crowds - everyone is happy and this is what Africa is all about
South African supporter

Although many sought to gloss over those incidents, the hard reality was they were there.

"I don't think this is any good for South Africa," said Egyptian defender Ahmed Fathi.

"I don't know why it happened but I know everyone is sad about the loss of the money. I don't know what else could be done but I think it is sad."

Nonetheless, other players have been effusive in their praise, including victorious Brazilian Kaka, who said the tournament was exactly what he was expecting from Africa in terms of excitement and passion, particularly from the fans.

Many locals were slightly dismayed by the organisation of the event but many were proud with the way it went.

"Whoever said that Africans can't organise anything is eating humble pie now.

"Look at the crowds - everyone is happy and this is what Africa is all about. The doomsayers are under the bed now that the World Cup has come to Africa. We have to show the world our culture," one South African told me.

Food for thought

But one issue was highlighted by South Africans who attended the matches. One man told the BBC that the women who sold local foods had been stopped from selling their wares in the stadiums.

A street vendor during the Confederation Cup
Food-sellers have been banned from the stadiums

"We need to see these people at the World Cup. We sing, we dance, we need energy and we need to eat in the stadium," he said.

This is an issue that may run and run, with voices being raised about the sidelining of hawkers from the stadium perimeters.

But things have, on the whole, gone well, not only for the locals but also for many international observers.

Andy Anson, who is heading England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup, said he had been greatly impressed.

"It has been a fantastic football competition, I think it has been one of the most exciting Confederation Cups that there has been.

"So they have clearly done a very good job of staging the event and I think you have to focus on the positives. But I do know there are things that the organisers want to improve on for next year.

"So that is one of the reasons for having this event - that you learn from it and you make things better. But overall it has been a tremendous success," he said.

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