Nasty hatchet job on SA's 2010 prospects

To get your blood really boiling — read this nasty, little article by Jamie Trecker on the Fox Sports website about South Africa’s 2010 world cup prospects. It mostly focuses on what a terrible country South Africa is — giving the overall impression that we are basically a hopeless bet to host the 2010 word cup, because the country is headed to doom and gloom.
…he says, among other things:

“Can South Africa successfully host a World Cup when it lacks the infrastructure required to deliver water and electricity, transport goods and services, and ensure the safety of its own citizenry?”

…he also says, interestingly but confusingly (who the hell this source of his is I don’t know):

“And, to be sure, there is some considerable old-line, racist pressure being brought to bear. One high-ranking FIFA executive told us there was opposition from some who didn’t want to see a “black World Cup.”

…now the ominous warning about how the country is headed for the pits

Today, South Africa is in a far, far different place than it was four years ago. Arguably, the country may be in a different place by the time 2010 rolls around, but few — save for South Africa’s politicians — are so optimistic.”

He also cites selective stats from the CIA Fact book to paint the worst possible picture of the country… yet ignoring stats from that very website which praise our “well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors;” and “a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of good” and notes that teh South African Stock Exchange ranks in the top 10. Sure, let’s not go into the problems of the country we all know so well, but to prompt this absolute drivel of a column?

I wrote Jamie Trecker thisletter (yes, yes — there are spelling mistakes in it– I wrote it in a hurry). To which he replied and to which I counter-replied…Judge for yourself


Dear Jamie

I had the misfortune of reading your hatchet job on South Africa with regards to the 2010 world cup. Most of your article focuses on the negatives about our country yet you don’t really make any effort to really understand the country, most particularly the positives in the country. You selectively quote only the negatives from CIA factbook, ignoring facts from the very source you used (CIA factbook) that we are a “middle income country”, with “well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors;” and “a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods” — and that our stock exchange actually ranks among the worlds top ten. The CIA factbook, says about the economy:

“South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; a stock exchange that ranks among the 10 largest in the world; and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. However, growth has not been strong enough to lower South Africa’s high unemployment rate, and daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era – especially poverty and lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups. South African economic policy is fiscally conservative, but pragmatic, focusing on targeting inflation and liberalizing trade as means to increase job growth and household income.”

Sure there are many problems, but they are not insurmountable and the problems are not all South Africa’s got going for it as you seem to indicate in your nasty little column. South Africa, remember, has successfully hosted a rugby and cricket world cup and we are not a micky mouse economy — by far the largest in Africa by a factor of four (four times the size of Egypt which is ranked second). Crime is also a big problem. But your jaundiced, patently one-sided view makes me think you have some kind of agenda? I’m not quite sure what you references to race have to do with anything…

You also forget that South Africa has already gone through an immense and rigorous qualifying process by FIFA which focused on issues like infrastructure and accommodation etc etc.. to even get to this stage. A South African world cup is far from a gamble. These scare-articles are pretty typical — and I remember how much fuss there was over Greece not being ready for the Olympics… (those ditzy mediterranean types!). Yet it was one of the best Olympics we have ever seen.

So you will moan and make a fuss, but the country will host a successful world cup and your silly little rantings will be long forgotten. You sound like and angry man. I feel sorry for you.


Matthew Buckland


From: Jamie Trecker []
Sent: 25 October 2006 08:30 PM
To: Matthew Buckland
Subject: Re: Your article

Matthew — Thanks for your letter. I have to say, you’re fairly selective in your reading and interpretations as well.

First off: the references I make to race were, in fact, my quoting FIFA delegates. The fact that there are people who don’t want to see South Africa succeed based on skin colour is reprehensible, and I noted it to point out that some of the chatter around the Cup is designed to bring it down for less-than-noble reasons.

Second: You rail on me selectively quoting from the CIA factbook. Yet I notice that you don’t have much to say about the take the UN has on South Africa, nor Archbishop Tlhagale’s comments. Nor do you care to comment on the take of your own leading financial paper, which seems to be fairly up-front about the transportation problem. And, for the record, I hardly think that noting that 50% of a country is under the poverty line is “selective.”

Third: You mention the Athens Olympics, calling it a “success.” In fact, it was a financial disaster for all parties.

Fourth: Saying “crime is a problem” in South Africa is a bit rich, don’t you think? This is a nation that the UN describes as more akin to a war zone with regards to murder and assault than a nation at peacetime.

I respect your opinion, and your right to think that any article that details some of the real, consensus issues around SA2010 is a “hatchet job.” However, I think you are doing yourself a disservice in the end. Until South Africa is able to confront some of these issues, the clamour to take the Cup away is going to grow. Personally — and contrary to your opinion — I think this would be a shame.



From: Matthew Buckland
Sent: 26 October 2006 08:19 AM
To: ‘Jamie Trecker’
Subject: RE: Your article
Hi Jamie,
Thanks for your reasoned response. Admittedly, my email to you was not the archetypal example of objectivity — but then again I was not writing an article for a respected title specifically for public consumption like yourself. I was writing a letter in protest to counter the bias and tenous grasp of facts in your article… so I don’t really agree with your criticism. Interestingly — you say in your letter that I am selective in my interpretations “as well”… so is this then an admission you were biased???
To compare this country to a warzone is ludicrous. You should travel to this country some time. Most tourists come and go out of this “war zone” without a problem with fantastic memories and with little incident. It’s ironic that Cape Town is one of the world’s top ten (or top five now I think?) tourist city destinations, quite surprising for a “war zone”. Maybe we’ll see Baghdad in the top ten some time?
I think you need to face up to the specific unsubstantiated comments about the country’s infrastructure — in the face of the facts where it is actually stated we have a modern and strong infrastructure. We have some of the biggest construction companies in the world who build infrastructure all over Africa.
Thanks for advising the country to “confront our issues” and for telling me my statement about crime is “a bit rich”. I live here. I was born here. There are many problems confronting post-apartheid South Africa… but you don’t seem to think that South Africans or the government is doing anything about them. Remember this country’s economy has flourished in post Apartheid South Africa (I think GDP has doubled), contrary to your statement that the country is getting worse. More of the poor have access to amenities than ever before — and this is continuing.
Sorry, jamie. But this was not a good article. And you got it wrong.
Kind regards

Comments (5)

  1. tinykov wrote::

    Matthew, i can’t agree with you more. i have been commenting on Jamie’s blog and i really do think there is a sense of Afro pessimism and subjective and biased reporting from Jamie who by the way has been on this issue even before the 2006 World Cup could end in Germany. I understand his concerns regarding crime and traportation and these are well founded. But a lot is being done on the ground to fix this and i attempted to enlighten him on these and other related efforts that are taking place. I have also admitted on his blog that crime has been grossly neglected by the SA authorities until now. But the world cup is 3 and half years away and many things can be done to resolve crime and solve transportation. Many of these programs have already started. What i really found hilarious is when he started mentioning the “from where i sit” stories and i ended up telling him “from where he sits, he thinks i have a lion in my backyard! Something that is so typical of Americans who are so ignorant and only feed off stereo types mostly propagated by CNN. I think Jamie should do himself and his audience a favor by actually coming down to SA to see for himself.

    Thursday, October 26, 2006 at 4:48 am #
  2. matt wrote::

    Hey tinykov… good point. The author’s writings are clearly based on ignorance nothing more and its clear that the author doesn’t really want to paint a fair picture.

    Jamie forgets that New York was one of the crime capitals of the world not so long ago (the 80s?). What makes him think a modern, sophisticated country like South Africa won’t be able to reel it in?

    Cheers Matt

    Thursday, October 26, 2006 at 11:41 pm #
  3. worldcupboi wrote::

    Hey Matt

    Only came across your response to Jamie Trecker who knows oh so much about South Africa from the CIA factbook and his “sources”, yet he has never been to South Africa. I too responded to his article in which he also painted the picture of a “failing and downward moving” economy, which is but the opposite of the reality in South Africa.

    I think what is worst is that he has fed this pathetic article to the American population who have by now formulated their opinions based on his really weak article. He fails to pay any attention to details. He feels bold enough to refer to stadia that will never be used again or a lack of stadia entirely. However, when asked to mention specfic stadia he felt would have no legacy he could not do that, and simply mentioned that while we have enough rugby stadia that “soccer” stadia are another matter.

    I responded to his article via email a while back and every response he has related to his talks with “FIFA folk”. I ended my response by asking him if he had ever visited South Africa. I think you know the answer to that.

    Thursday, December 14, 2006 at 12:41 pm #
  4. Jaco wrote::

    Ignorance mixed with blind pride has no cure.
    The only way to let people see and make them understand, is to let them experience. Opinions made up behind flickering screens and in high office buildings are two dimensional snapshots of reality. It is in this flat blogged world that people are stuck and make the mistaken assumption that their intellectual superiority and stature can fill out the truth to its fullness. Truth is full, round, fleshy, sensual, unpretentious, real … you know it when you experience it. You can’t contradict it.
    You cannot criticise that which you do not understand or comprehend.
    Kiss truth deeply; feel it, touch it, experience it. Then we can sit around a South African braai, and chat about the real truth about our lives in our country, and how we loive it so deeply.

    Oh, and (Jamie) when you finally pack away the fear (false evidence appearing real), don’t opt for starred accommodation – come and stay with a citizen of Africa; I’ll let you sleep in the spare bedroom with the jacuzzi.

    Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 5:13 am #
  5. worldcupboi wrote::

    I do not want Jamie to admit he was wrong in his article, or that he has failed to give justice to the term journalist. I would like him to spend a week, a month in South Africa and at the end of it to say, “I understand”, “I now know better”. South Africa will never be a country understood on paper or through numbers.

    Sunday, June 17, 2007 at 2:21 am #

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