Contribution by Thibault Lebreton,
3rd-year student in ESSCA’s Bachelor in International Business Development.
« I have always been a football fan and like to discover what it can bring to society beyond sports. I am convinced that a competition like the World Cup is overall a real boon for a developing country. »
After the failure of its bid for hosting the 2006 World Cup, South Africa was once again running for what some may call « the Holy Grail ». The wonderful news arrived on May 15, 2004 for the country that was to become the first African nation to host a World Cup. This has brought the world’s poorest continent many benefits, mainly economic, social and political.
From a political point of view, Africa has been able to catch what was catchable. In other words, this World Cup was first of all an investment for them, because there is no less than 400 million euros for only the main stadium that hosted the launch and end of the competition ceremony.
The World Cup is an event that also allows you to have all the spotlights on you. This means that from a political point of view, it spreads a positive image of the country. Many decisions and agreements can be put in place, particularly to improve citizens’ lives: for example, the development of transport networks, the development of Internet networks and telephone networks for the broadcasting of matches. This World Cup allowed the host country to develop these different networks. In particular, the creation of roads leading to the new stadiums. In addition, the liberalisation and privatisation of telecommunications no longer allow public authorities to control the images as before.
Beyond the image it gives to the rest of the world, a country designated for hosting the World Cup shows its ability to influence other economic actors in international relations and to mobilise resources. This is a very important point for a continent like Africa and especially for a developing country like South Africa. The political consequences were very significant during this World Cup.
From an economic point of view, the development of transport and telecommunications networks allow structural investments. And the arrival of several thousand spectators leading to a boom in consumption with the appearance of new jobs and new tax revenues. However, this impact is limited and comes down to a time T, it does not really have a long term effect. At least not if we show that the different developments (whether cultural or economic) are geographically limited. They are not carried out near the stadiums, which are often no longer used at the end of the competitions.
While the various developments are certainly beneficial to the population in the short term, the construction of such large sports infrastructure will lead to the deployment of what can be called a “white elephant”. As the Independent reports, there have been many elements set aside for the reception of this World Cup, especially from an economic point of view. So yes, this event brought some good things, but it didn’t last very long. We can use the words of Andile Mngxitama, the leader of Black First Land First, who said: « The government has enslaved itself to an event that will turn South Africa into a playground for European tourists. When the event is over, we will still be poor. »
We can also read that one of these stadiums was built on the site of a school, giving priority to football over the education of local children. This is a real disaster from a social point of view for the population. In addition to that, the stadiums are today regularly empty, not many activities take place in the stadiums. But socially and culturally, the construction of these infrastructures has made a huge contribution. For example, there are concerts like Ed Sheeran or Sam Smith in March and April 2019. On the website of eventful, you can book your tickets directly if you want! This has developed the city’s cultural activity and has had a significant impact on the dynamics of the city and the country.
Moreover, football was not as popular among the entire population, rugby being the main sport in the country. This World Cup has led to an increase in the number of football licensees in the country. Today, we have more than a million young South Africans playing club football. Some young people who live in poorer neighborhoods will be able to interact with other citizens of the country without differences. They will be able to play a sport like the other boys in their country. A socially important impact since during a match the player’s origin is not as important as in real life.
In conclusion, it can be seen that football is a real challenge for countries, especially those that need recognition and greater impact. Hosting a competition of this magnitude also means pursuing a policy of modernising the country. An important point in the lives of its citizens, but also a landmark in their memory. This has enabled Africa to achieve political, economic and social development. But it should also be noted that this competition will leave South Africa with a significant burden, especially that of the white elephants and these stadiums, which has hardly filled since the final won by Spain on 11 July 2010 thanks to a goal by Andres Iniesta.