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2006 World Cup decision Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Favourites believed it was Africa's turn
A fan at the African Nations Cup held in South Africa in 1996
South Africa hosted the African Nations Cup in 1996
South Africa were the overwhelming favourite to win the nomination for 2006 - even more so since the English bid was jeopardised by the country's own fans.

Countries outside Europe and South America have grown tired of the stranglehold that those two continents have held over the World Cup and have started using their increasing power to change things.

Sepp Blatter was voted in to Fifa's presidency on a wave of African votes after he promised he would deliver the World Cup to the continent for the first time.

Now he returned the favour by publicly backing the South African bid at every opportunity.

South Africa facts
Population: 43,500,000
Capital city: Pretoria
International honours: African Nations Cup winners 1996
Top teams: Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs, Moroka Swallows
Only recently did he add the proviso that South Africa should get the nod "if" they can prove they have the capabilities to host the tournament.

But with Japan and Korea jointly hosting Asia's first tournament in 2002, there was an overwhelming feeling that 2006 is Africa's turn.

Morocco may have felt that their bid is every bit as strong and valid, but the momentum was with South Africa.

The reborn "Rainbow Nation" has a much higher global profile than Morocco and the backing of the charismatic Nelson Mandela was a major plus.

The bid team promised that a World Cup in South Africa would help to develop the game across the whole continent.

Nelson Mandela presents the Rugby World Cup to Francois Pienaar
Nelson Mandela is a major supporter
One of the main questionmarks which hung over the bid was whether the country had the infrastructure to handle such a massive tournament.

Certainly that was the criticism raised by South Africa's opponents - but the country could point to their successful staging of the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and the African Nations Cup in 1996.

Cricket's governing body has also deemed South Africa a suitable venue to host the Cricket World Cup in 2003.

What may have worried Fifa members more than the lack of facilities is South Africa's spiralling crime rates - but bid president Danny Jordaan countered this with the assertion that the country is a favourite holiday destination for thousands of European tourists every year.

A South Africa fan
The feeling was that it was Africa's turn
But Jordaan took the issue seriously enough to pledge 10% of the operating budget to handling security.

The South African bid was not without other problems - doubt remained over South Africa's football watching public (ie. black population) being able to afford to attend matches, and there were concerns over corruption within the South African game.

But Jordaan has said he would establish an independent body to organise the World Cup if South Africa got the vote.

Overall the weaknesses were considered minor in the face of Africa's right to host the tournament.

Sepp Blatter, president of Fifa
Fifa president Sepp Blatter supported South Africa
And the fact that South Africa is in the same time band as Central Europe meant that kick-off times would be ideal for the lucrative European market.

The tournament would also have taken place during the South African winter so the weather and temperature would have been ideal for playing football.

The consensus of opinion suggested South Africa could not lose, but Germany and England had strong all-round bids and were aiming to pick up enough second-place votes to swing it.

See also:

29 Jun 00 | 2006 World Cup decision
29 Jun 00 | 2006 World Cup decision
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