No World Cup is without controversy. But FIFA awarding this year’s World Cup to Germany became an ugly exercise rife with accusations of racism and colonialism . It exposed the cartel like character of FIFA, where the influential traditional soccer powers (from Europe) form blocs and vote together to undermine the efforts of other countries that are bidding to host the World Cup. In this year’s World Cup, FIFA representatives voted 12-11 in favor of Germany over South Africa.
One official, A Mr. Charles Dempsey, the Oceania Football Committee (OFC) president abstained. He was under explicit orders from the OFC to vote for South Africa but due to death threats to him and his family and supposed bribes he backed out.
If he had voted it would have been 12 all and Sepp Blatter, FIFA president with his tie-breaking vote would have given it to South Africa. It would have been the first time that Africa would have hosted a spectacle as mammoth as the World Cup. A time of pride and prestige for South Africa coming out of the shadow of apartheid announcing that it was ready to join the world as one of the many new vibrant African democracies and welcome people of all nationalities, religion, and color.
The decision did not go down well in South Africa, where thousands and thousands of people were waiting to break out in celebrations after the announcement. Even Nelson Mandela got into the act, when he argued South Africa’s case, “it’s Africa’s time”. After the disappointment popular talk radio stations were inundated with callers crying foul and accusing FIFA of being Eurocentric and even racist. South African President Thabo Mbeki described the result as a setback in Africa’s efforts to gain international sporting recognition.
Charles Dempsey’s abstention displeased other OFC officials who saw this as an embarrassment to themselves and in direct contravention to their orders and he was forced to resign from his post two years prematurely. South African bid officials were infuriated by Dempsey’s decision and bid chairman Irvin Khoza said he had “betrayed the South African people”.
Charles Dempsey: A Profile