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Soccer's Ruling Powers Concerned Over Future Tournaments

Euro 2008 has been a success off and on the pitch but two of soccer's ruling powers, world body FIFA and Europe's UEFA, are concerned about upcoming tournaments.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela lifts the World Cup trophy after the FIFA's executive committee announced that South Africa will host the 2010 FIFA World Cup

Will South Africa be ready for the 2010 World Cup?

FIFA president Joseph Blatter and his UEFA counterpart Michel Platini are men with common goals in soccer.

But they also share common concerns as their two most important projects of the next few years -- the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland -- continue to make the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The view from Euro 2008 in Switzerland and Austria is far from rosy.

In view of their otherwise highly professional way of working it is curious that world governing body FIFA and its European counterpart UEFA have caused themselves problems with a tournament award favored by the president (South Africa) and one that was a complete surprise (Ukraine/Poland).

This is even more so in view of the fact that the tournaments are their most important sources of income. Pressure from sponsors who fear the loss of one of their most lucrative advertising platforms is almost bound to occur.

Hosts defend against onslaught of rumors

FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter speaks with UEFA president Michel Platini

Both Blatter (right) and Platini are concerned

Statements from federation officials from the criticized host countries sound at present like self-comforting set phrases. Irvin Khoza, World Cup organizing committee chairman, said at a podium discussion in Vienna the concerns were being noted but that South Africa has a good security concept and would be ready on time.

Similar soothing statements are coming from Poland and Ukraine. A UEFA inspection next week is "no cause for concern," Ukraine tournament organizer Evhen Chervonenko said.

The signals from the UEFA administration are different. It is no longer completely ruled that an ultimatum by Platini to the eastern Europeans in January is more than just a warning shot. Spain has long been unofficially considered as a substitute.

A UEFA meeting is set for Friday while Platini and his personnel have agreed not to say anything on the issue until after the current Euro 2008 tournament.

Afterwards, the Euro 2012 hosts have to come up with a solution to serious infrastructure problems concerning stadium construction, transport routes and hotel capacity.

Beckenbauer supports South Africa

The South Africans, meanwhile, have been fighting virtually from the May 2004 award of the 2010 World Cup to dispel rumors that they could lose the tournament. A dozen countries have been mentioned as possible replacements.

Former German soccer star Franz Beckenbauer

Beckenbauer said soccer brings people together

Germany, the 2006 World Cup host, is one of them, but Franz Beckenbauer, president of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee, has issued a categorical rejection.

"The World Cup in South Africa has to be a success," the FIFA executive committee member wrote in a brochure published by the World Cup organizing committee.

"Everyone knows that Africa has many problems like poverty, war, crime and poor health care. I believe that only football can bring people together and inspire them to dreams and hopes."

Despite the wave of violence against African foreigners in Cape Town a few weeks ago, it appears that finding a new host can be ruled out. Blatter has made the first football World Cup on African soil such a personal prestige object that there is no going back.

The biggest organizational problems such as stadium construction do indeed now seem to have been solved.

What remains are the concerns for the safety of the expected 450,000 World Cup tourists as crime apparently spirals out of control.

However, Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the 2010 World Cup organizing committee, insisted South Africa would be ready and able to host a safe World Cup.

"South Africa has a track record of hosting big events -- 11 in the past 14 years -- without a single incident. These were safe and we will ensure that the World Cup is no different," he said.

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