The World Cup is still four month’s away, but not just hosts Germany are preparing for the biggest single sporting event this summer. Other participating nations are making their final preparations, playing in tournaments and friendlies while sorting out where to stay in Germany during the tournament. Arunava Chaudhuri gives an overview.
Leipzig stadium for the World Cup 2006
In Germany the preparations are in full swing. There is no time to loose at this stage. A new controversy has arisen over allegations by the customer care organisation “Stiftung Warentest” that security at some of the 12 World Cup stadiums are not up to the mark. The stadiums in Berlin, Gelsenkirchen, Kaiserslautern and Leipzig have been termed unsafe and shown the red card. The organisation says that problems would arise in case of an emergency due to the narrow stairs, long exit routes, dangerous stumbling blocks and deep ditches. The World Cup Organising Committee chairman Franz Beckenbauer was furious after the release of the study, saying that Germany had the most modern and secure stadiums in the world and that such evaluations would only give Germany unwanted negative press worldwide. Even the German government had to step in and say that the stadiums are safe and secure.
In England national coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has kicked off another controversy, which has led to his contract – originally until summer 2008 - being shortened. Eriksson will leave England after the 2006 World Cup this summer. This time Eriksson told a “News of the World” journalist pretending to be an Arab sheikh all about how the sheikh could buy an English club, that Eriksson himself would be willing to join the sheikh’s new club as their coach and get the club to sign David Beckham and Michael Owen as players. Eriksson even told the journalist that certain Premier League club coaches take bribes whenever they sign a player. This was all released by the paper and the FA was forced to react. With the World Cup fast approaching it could not sack Eriksson, so the Swede would be allowed to take England to the tournament, but a new manager would be taking over after the World Cup.
Could the Trinidad&Tobago national team be renamed “Chutney Soca Warriors”?
The T&T team is called “Soca Warriors” back home, but the “Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin” (GOPIO) has asked that the word ‘Chutney’ be added to the team’s name. This brings to the forefront the problems between Afro-Trinidadian and Indo-Trinidadian perceptions of the national team. While football and Soca are seen to be Afro-Carribean, cricket and Chutney are seen as Indo-Carribean. But now with the Soca Warriors making it to the football World Cup for the first time, all Trinidadians want to rally behind their team and the “Soca Warrior” tag of the team seems to be a problem for some Trinidadian PIOs.
Jack Warner, the CONCACAF president and FIFA Vice-President, had said in a media report that there was no question of changing the Soca Warrior name.
The ongoing African Cup of Nations 2006 in Egypt has reached the knockout stage. And only one of the five African nations who have qualified for the World Cup have had a good outing: the Ivory Coast. The Didier Drogba-led side will take on hosts Egypt on Friday, February 10. The Ivory Coast, one of four African debutants at the coming World Cup, have been drawn in the ‘group of death’ along with Argentina, Holland and Serbia-&-Montenegro, but their performances in Egypt proved that they have quality and could cause an upset in Germany. Defending champions Tunisia, the only African nation to have played in a previous World Cup, reached the quarterfinals before losing in a penalty shootout against Nigeria. Meanwhile Ghana, Angola and Togo went out of the tournament at the group stage. A lot of work remains for the teams, who will have to pull up their socks to get better results against potentially stronger opposition from Europe and South America.
In Asia the four World Cup qualifiers are using their first round 2007 Asian Cup qualifying matches on February 22 as part of their preparatory build-up to this summer’s World Cup. In Group A Saudi Arabia travel to Yemen, while Japan host India. In Group B Iran host Chinese Taipei and South Korea travel west to Syria.
For India it will be a great honour to face the Japanese at the Yokohama International Stadium, which was the venue of the 2002 World Cup final between Brazil and Germany.