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Soccer Fest

13 June 2006 Angelo Coppola

The FIFA soccer World Cup is not only contested on the pitch. There are huge sponsorships tied to the event.

Adidas, the German sportswear company, has paid FIFA $350 million for the sponsorship of 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Archrival Nike, the well-known American sporting goods company, recognised the world appeal of soccer a number of years ago and has fast moved into number two spot behind Adidas, signing deals with some of the biggest clubs in World Soccer including the national team that every young player worships Brazil.

Nike is planning an extensive campaign to muscle in on the tournament, even if their products will be banned in the stand. Unfortunately FIFA cannot prevent national teams or individual players from cunningly displaying their sponsors logo on their apparel or footwear.

First prize though goes to Adidas, who have designed a special ball for the tournament. Ten million balls have already been shipped to distributors; five million more will be delivered before the final game.

The stock market likes the World Cup. Analysts believe that the benefit the German economy will enjoy from the tournament, are worth a number of extra points on the DAX. The sponsors and other companies associated with the event have certainly outperformed the rest of the market in the run up to kick off.

The celebrations will continue for months after the closing ceremony; the analysis of teams and individual performances even longer. When the hubbub finally dies down, attention will turn to South Africa 2010.

The Germans are respected for their workmanlike efficiency and the organisation of World Cup 2006 will only serve to raise the bar for South Africa.

At this stage there is little visible evidence of progress towards 2010 although our local spin doctors assure us that it would be unsporting behaviour (a yellow card) to take attention away from Germany 2006 by disclosing details ahead of the opening ceremony.

Within four years, stadiums have to be upgraded, systems developed, hardware installed, security personnel trained, hotels built and transport links introduced. But that is not our greatest challenge.

The World Cup is about more than just quaffing a Bud (get used to it!) or biting into a Big Mac. It's about soccer and national pride.

As the host nation, Bafana Bafana will qualify automatically for the tournament even though it is poorly rated internationally. (They failed to qualify for Germany.)

Our ability and skill on the field is far removed from our political and economic ranking on the African continent. We have four years to build a team that will bring joy and honour to the home crowd and earn the admiration of thousands of visitors.

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