Football: Abedi Pele on Racism and 2010 World Cup

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Racist attacks against Black players in European clubs have shot up in the past few years. Abedi Pele, the former Marseilles football star, now a FIFA (The Fédération Internationale de Football Association – International Federation of Association Football) ambassador against racism, in a recent trip to Paris, condemned the resurgence of this phenomenon in European stadiums. He also threw more light on South Africa and the 2010 World Cup.

South Africa will be hosting the 2010 World Cup, a first in Africa’s history. Abedi Pele, the former Ghanaian international footballer, who supported South Africa’s candidature for the World Cup, recently dismissed all doubts concerning the success of the event in the Southern African country.

One of Abedi Pele’s fellow countrymen, John Mensah, a defender for Olympique Lyonnais, fell victim to a racist attack on February 15, during a match against Le Havre. Abedi Pele, talks to about racism in international football. You are a FIFA ambassador against racism. What do you think about this problem in stadiums today?

Abedi Pele: Racism poses a serious threat to football. I was selected alongside Zenedine Zidane to fight against this problem. We were also confronted with the sad situation when we played for our clubs. Today, there are fewer attacks, but we need to fight harder to completely eradicate it. Do you really think that there are fewer racist attacks?

Abedi Pele: When i played international football, people threw oranges and bananas at us… But now, FIFA has established rules to fight against this. Clubs with racist supporters could find themselves playing in empty stadiums. The racist fans could also face prison terms. These are very severe sanctions, but apparently, it does not seem sufficient enough. This is the reason behind FIFA’s campaign encouraging teams to educate their fans against racist acts. You threw your weight behind South Africa’s candidature to host the 2010 World Cup. What are your impressions as we approach the games?

Abedi Pele: I have been working with South Africans for over nine years. We fought hard to be selected as organisers for the games in 2010. Today, what we need to do is to prove to the world that Africans cannot only talented footballers but can organise it as well. The organisation of the event is, in fact, what matters the most. Africa must prove that it has the technical know-how and the human resources necessary to rise up to the challenge. I am very certain that after the success of this World Cup in South Africa, the competition will return to the continent. Is South Africa ready to host the World Cup?

Abedi Pele: I just returned from South African and I can tell you that the country is ready to host the World Cup. We will soon organise the Confederation Cup to test the facilities in place. Please do not listen to those who are saying that South Africa is not ready. FIFA will let us know if there are any problems. FIFA is certain that South Africa will rise up to the challenge. Sepp Blatter (President of FIFA) recently said that his organistion’s “Plan A is South Africa, Plan B is South Africa, and Plan C is still South Africa”. There is nothing more to add. What, in your point of view, will make the 2010 World Cup a success?

Abedi Pele: There can’t be a successful World Cup if the host team does not do well in the game. If South Africa is able to reach the quarter finals, this first African World Cup would be considered a success. We also have very good teams in Africa who are equally well equipped to achieve good results; Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon… If one of these teams makes it to the final leg of the competition the whole continent will support them.

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