Wednesday, July 9, 2008

FIFA FINALLY Says Something About Zimbabwe

Leave it to FIFA to wait for the most opportune time to condemn a despot.

Today, South Africa 2010's organizing committee finally came out and said the 2010 tournament and the continent need peace in Zimbabwe. You think?

FIFA general-secretary Jerome Valcke and Danny Jordaan, the chief executive officer of the South African organizing committee discussed the economic and political crises in neighboring Zimbabwe.

South Africa is the main regional power and has been accused of doing too little to push for reform in Zimbabwe. Some activists have even threatened a campaign similar to the pressure Olympic host China has faced over Tibet.

MY POV: Read this great editorial from the New York Times for more about this movement.

Jordaan, though, said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, accused of killing political opponents and ruining a once vibrant economy, was resisting South African President Thabo Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy" as well as more vocal international criticism.

"It's clear that Mugabe has ignored everyone, including Mbeki," Jordaan said. "Why must South Africa be singled out when he ignores the whole world?" MY POV: Because you're the regional power and your influence could stifle Mugabe's dictatorial ways.

He said he hoped for a diplomatic breakthrough soon.

"Before we come to 2010, we must have a stable Zimbabwe," Jordaan said. "It's in all our interests." MY POV: Sorry for being cynical, but it sounds like once their bank accounts are involved, they finally care about the Zimbabwe situation. SA officials know that if the situation in Zimbabwe continues to persist, their World Cup could be affected. So now they care ...

Tournament organizers have already felt the impact of Zimbabwe's turmoil, he said. South Africa needs all the hotel rooms it can get, and Jordaan envisions some soccer fans spending their nights in neighboring Swaziland and Mozambique. High-end hotels in Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls area would also be ideal, but Jordaan said they aren't on the list because of Zimbabwe's predicament.

Valcke was asked whether FIFA was using its influence to encourage Mbeki on the Zimbabwe question.

"The World Cup is a huge leverage, but there are limits," Valcke said. "The World Cup doesn't give you the power to push President Mbeki to say anything other than what he wants to say .... We can just say that we are concerned ... and we have to find a solution."

MY POV: I don't think this is the last we'll hear of this situation. Football is the people's game and something is bound to boil over should this Mugabe situation persist. The Zimbabwean people, the South African people and anyone that cares about the situation there will make their voices heard loud and clear.

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