Strike at World Cup stadiums has spread


Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa — A strike by stadium stewards over pay had spread to half the World Cup venues by Tuesday, forcing police to bring in more than 1,000 officers to guarantee security for a night game between Brazil and North Korea at Ellis Park.

Several hundred protesting workers, clad all in black, were singing, chanting and whistling as fans and journalists began arriving at the downtown Johannesburg stadium Tuesday afternoon. Grim-faced police officers toting shotguns looked on from just a few feet away.

Across town at Soccer City, the largest of the World Cup venues, several hundred guards walked off the job. No matches were played there Tuesday.

Police have also taken over security at stadiums in Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. A demonstration by workers Sunday in Durban was broken up by police using tear gas and rubber bullets.

The strikers, most of whom are black, work for Stallion Security Consortium, a private, black-run firm hired to provide staff at five of the 10 World Cup venues, the Associated Press reported. No wage issues have surfaced among stewards hired for the other five stadiums by South Africa’s largest security company, Fidelity.

The strikers said they were being offered from 126 rand ($16.50) to 190 rand ($25) for 12- to 15-hour shifts. They were demanding at least 450 rand per day ($59).

The stewards and a union official both called on FIFA to mediate the dispute. Stallion Security Consortium has not commented on the situation.

Mexico games to be protested

In another bit of labor news, South African unions are calling for workers to protest outside Mexico’s final two group games in Polokwane and Rustenburg in support of a mine union leader who they say has been harassed by the Mexican government.

Both cities are in South Africa’s northern mining belt.

The unions want the Mexican government to recognize Napoleon Gomez Urrutia as head of that nation’s largest mining union, drop charges against him and other union bosses and unfreeze union funds.

“We will show placards with messages saying ‘Away with the Mexico government,’ ” Oupa Komane, deputy general security of the National Union of Mineworkers, said at a news conference. “Our primary purpose is to send a message, not to disrupt the World Cup. We are using the World Cup as a platform.”

Scoring, temperatures plunge

Five days into the World Cup goals remain hard to come by with 11 of the 28 teams that have played failing to score. And 13 others managed just one goal.

Two games, including Tuesday’s Portugal-Ivory Coast match, have ended scoreless, dropping the tournament average to 1.64 goals a game, well below the record for the lowest-scoring World Cup set in Italy in 1990 when there was an average of 2.2 goals scored in the 52 games.

And goals may become even harder to come by now that winter has arrived with a vengeance in South Africa, with snow falling in the mountains and the wind-chill dropping below freezing in Johannesburg.

Buffon’s status uncertain for Italy

Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who came out of his team’s opener with Paraguay at halftime, has a “serious” back problem, the team’s physician said, and it is uncertain whether he’ll play again in the tournament.

The problem is on the left side of Buffon’s sciatic nerve, and though the keeper said he thought he would be better in a couple of days, team doctor Enrico Castellacci said, “At the moment, no date can be set for his return.”

The defending champion’s next game is Sunday against New Zealand.

Times wire services contributed to this report.