Danny Jordaan: 2010 took world football’s knee off Africa’s neck

Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg was lit up by fireworks after Spain won the 2010 World Cup

2010 World Cup organising chief Danny Jordaan says South Africa hosting the tournament effectively “took world football’s knee off Africa’s neck.”

Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 Local Organising Committee, was talking ahead of Saturday’s 10-year anniversary of the final at Johannesburg’s Soccer City as Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0.

He admits that then Fifa President Sepp Blatter’s decision to rotate the World Cup hosting rights among the different continental governing bodies was key to the change in attitude.

“Now it is an open competition again I do not think it is going to be possible to deny Africa on the basis of Afro pessimism and the negativity and prejudice against Africa,” he told BBC Sport Africa.

He says that the Black Lives Matter protests in recent months that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May will also have helped how Africa is perceived around the world.

“That issue (prejudice) is now full and centre and top of the mind in the world and I think this movement of Black Lives Matter and taking the knee campaign made the world sit back and look at this issue,” he added.

“So 2010 took world football’s knee off Africa’s neck, I don’t think it will be allowed to put that knee on Africa’s neck again.”

African countries have bid to host five separate World Cup tournaments, but the only time a nation from the continent has won the right to host was for 2010, when only African countries could bid.

The aim now is to correct that in the future, although Morocco – who have missed out on all five editions it has bid for – was comprehensively beaten in its bid for the 2026 finals when going up against the successful bid from the Americas.

“It is up to Africa to construct the kind of proposal that is viable and even with all the competitive challenges that we have,” he explained.

“We have to make sure that the event becomes a success on the continent both in terms of the competition, media demands, commercial terms.

“Particularly 2030 because 2026 is in the USA (Canada and Mexico) so it is easy to foresee a revenue probably in the area of $10 billion and more – therefore the challenge is going to be massive for whoever wants to bid and host in 2030 (World Cup).”

Jordaan believes the continent’s passion for football mean that other African countries could be suitable to host the World Cup.

“Africans are football fans and we saw that in 2010. Look what happened when Bafana Bafana dropped out in the first round – those (local) fans all went to support Ghana and made it Ba-Ghana Ba-Ghana,” he reminisced.

“When Ghana dropped out they moved and supported Spain. They did not leave the event they support the event, they love football .

“I went to Germany and what would happen there is when Argentina dropped out the next day all the fans of Argentina cancelled their tickets, rooms and left Germany.

“You cannot see a fan of Argentina supporting Brazil it is not going to happen – you cannot see a fan of England supporting Germany.

“So there’s a different understanding of football that we are there to celebrate football and that is the strength.”

His one regret is that the 2010 World Cup did not prove to be the start of a change in Africa’s ability to compete at the highest levels on the pitch.

“I think what we had hoped for is from an African football perspective, remember Abedi Pele, George Weah, Roger Milla were part of the bid and therefore we wanted an African team to go to the semi-finals and finals and hopefully win,” he said.

“Pele had said this would happen even before the year 2000. It is now 20 years after Pele’s prediction and it has not happened.

“In 2010 we had Ghana going to the quarter-finals and then the second ‘Hand of God’ via Suarez denied them the opportunity to go to semi-final.

“In 2014 we had two African teams in the second round, not a single African team in the quarterfinal, and that clearly is not progress from 2010.

“Then in 2018 in Russia not a single African team made it to the second round, so clearly what we had hoped that the 2010 World Cup on the continent would be the game changer.

“We wanted it to be the launch-pad for African’s competitiveness in global football and that has not quite happened so we have to look at what are the issues there.”

Since the World Cup began nearly 100 years ago, no African nation has ever reached the semi-finals of the tournament, with only three – Ghana, Senegal and Cameroon – reaching the quarters.