If group has its way, there will be blood at 2010 World Cup
Imagine that it is 1994 again and that the opening game of the World Cup is about to take place at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Or perhaps it’s the first game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, or at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, or at any of the other six venues used during the ’94 tournament.
Now, imagine the crowds outside the stadium, the fans in a festive and anticipatory mood, children among them. Now imagine a cow being led on a rope to a designated spot outside the stadium and having its throat cut and its blood drained as part of the pregame ritual.
Unthinkable? You bet. Sickening? Absolutely.
But that’s exactly what one group in South Africa is proposing should happen at each of the 10 stadiums being used in next year’s World Cup.
“We must have a cultural ceremony of some sort, where we are going to slaughter a beast,” said Zolani Mkiva, chairman of a group responsible for coordinating cultural activities at South Africa 2010.
“We sacrifice the cow for this great achievement and we call on our ancestors to bless, to grace, to ensure that all goes well. It’s about calling for the divinity to prevail for a fantastic atmosphere. We believe that from the start we’ve got to do things in accordance with our own traditions.”
The World Cup is a global event that just happens to be taking place in South Africa. The country is incredibly scenic and has a marvelous array of wildlife and a diverse range of peoples, each with a rich store of myth and folklore.
In other words, there are plenty of unique and colorful African traditions to be celebrated without resorting to animal sacrifice.
As if South Africa 2010 didn’t have enough negative publicity going on without Mkiva’s mad cow idea, the security-minded Germans added another wrinkle to the June 11-July 11 tournament.
According to the German magazine Sport-Bild, the country’s soccer federation has been given this bit of advice by its security consultant, BaySecur:
“The possibility for the players of moving outside of the hotel boundaries should be kept to a minimum,” BaySecur’s Guenter Schnelle told the federation. “Otherwise there must be a full escort [with] armed security guards and bulletproof vests for the players.”
Germany plans to set up its World Cup camp in Pretoria, and the players and coaches will have private bodyguards protecting them both in and around their hotel.
Nothing like the friendliness and goodwill of an international sporting event, is there?
Bad news from Rome: Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, the doddering 73-year-old Swiss gnome who has been president of FIFA since 1998, told Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport that he intends to run again when his term expires in 2011. “I haven’t finished my mission in football; I need more time,” Blatter said. We didn’t realize he had started.
Bad news from Rio de Janeiro: If you live in the favelas, or slums, surrounding Maracana Stadium, you’re about to face the bulldozers. Starting in February, the 59-year-old stadium will undergo a $250-million renovation to prepare it for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.
Bad news from Lagos: The FIFA Under-17 World Cup kicked off in Nigeria on Saturday amid heavy rain, sparse crowds and the revelation that 15 Nigerian players and 11 from African champion Gambia had been cut from their teams after MRI wrist scans showed they were older than they claimed. The U.S. opens against Spain on Monday in Kano.
Bad news from London: There’s nothing like a good bribe to win the right to stage the World Cup in 2018 or 2022. England’s bid committee has sent each of the wives of the 24 FIFA executive committee members who will make the decision a $375 designer handbag. “All our gifts are carefully chosen so as to be in the spirit and the letter of the law,” said a bid spokesman. Right.
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99 -- Real Madrid’s players wore black armbands during Saturday’s 0-0 tie with Sporting Gijon in honor of Felix Perez Alvarez, the club’s oldest fan, who died Thursday at age 99. Alvarez became a paying fan of Real in 1923 and kept up his club membership for 86 years. He saw the team win 31 Spanish league titles and nine European championships.
100 -- Iker Casillas, Spain’s No. 1 goalkeeper and Real Madrid’s unquestioned starter in the nets since 1999, played his 100th game in European competition Wednesday in a 3-2 Champions League loss to AC Milan. “With seven European Cups to their name, Milan represent the grandeur of this competition,” Casillas said on Real’s website. “It will be an honor to earn my 100th European match against them.”
99 -- Brazilian striker Ronaldo, the World Cup’s all-time leading goal scorer, wore No. 9 when he played for Barcelona and again when he played for Real Madrid. But during his spell with AC Milan Ronaldo wore No. 99 because Filippo “Pippo” Inzaghi was not about to give up his No. 9 shirt.
100 -- The Spanish soccer federation is 100 years old and as part of the celebration Spain will play Argentina in a friendly in Madrid on Nov. 14 in a game matching two teams that are heading to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
99 -- Major League Soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer is D.C. United’s Bolivian forward Jaime Moreno, who wears No. 99. He played against Spain in the 1994 World Cup in Chicago and against Real Madrid this year in Landover, Md.
100 -- Among the works of Catalan art on display in FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium museum are paintings by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and Salvador Dali. The latter, once described by England goalkeeper and budding artist David James as “your Wayne Rooney equivalent,” had the centenary of his birth celebrated in 2004.
-- Grahame L. Jones