The Halycon days of South African football, when the right to host the 2010 World Cup was won, were highlighted in the fourth and final episode of SuperSport’s ‘Pulse of the Nation’.
The intrigue around the losing bid for the 2006 tournament, then rebounding to win the 2010 edition, is vividly told by the powerful insiders who were at the helm of the diplomatic, political and sporting efforts to persuade the world to try its luck with Africa.
There is also a detailed and gripping insider account of the Premier Soccer League’s fight to open its television rights to competitive bidding and find a fair deal that would take professional football in the country to new heights.
The PSL was earning a pittance for a valuable asset in its dealings with the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation, and had to first disentangle itself from a one-sided deal, which brought it little benefit, in order to present it to tender.
SuperSport offered R1 billion over five years in an unprecedented deal while the SABC attempted to bluff in negotiations, leading to a new relationship that became the bedrock of the game in South Africa.
But it was a very difficult deal to make, which politicians opposed amid a wave of negative publicity launched by the SABC. The machinations of the era come to life as the drama’s key players explain how it all unfolded in stunning detail.
The battle for television rights in South Africa was similar to many others that took place in other countries around the world. The partnership with television has helped strengthen football’s position as the most popular sport in the world.
The crushing disappointment of South Africa’s defeat to Germany in a rigged vote for the 2006 World Cup revealed just how murky the world of football politics can be.
At that time, the decision as to which country would host the event was made by members of the executive committee of Fifa, football’s most powerful body. But with self-interest at the top of her priorities, South Africa were narrowly beaten in voting for the 2006 finals, before winning a hard-fought battle to host the 2010 tournament.
Corrupt intrigues around the 2006 vote led to the introduction of rotation between continents for future World Cups and 2010 was designated for Africa. But the battle proved difficult for the South African candidacy, which faced Morocco, and it ultimately went to the end.
The joy of former President Nelson Mandela, who contributed to the diplomatic charm offensive, remains an iconic image of the era…and a reminder of some of the most exciting days in the country’s history.
“Pulse of a Nation” succeeds in capturing a period of change that has proven beneficial for big football.