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Gary BenhamHead of Communications, Pretoria
An age old football tradition involves players swapping shirts at the end of a match. I'm sure that England shirts will be much sought after during the World Cup. But South African centre half Matthew Booth got in early by successfully bidding for a signed England jersey during a recent Charity auction. Perhaps Matthew will get another England shirt when Bafana Bafana meet England in the final on 11 July!
Matthew & Sonia Booth with a shirt from the winning team of WC2010?
Back in the UK the Thrive Strip Amnesty has successfully collected 14,000 unwanted football strips for distribution to underprivileged children in South Africa, an appeal that was timed to coincide with this year’s World Cup. Kit was received from football fans, local schools, the RAF and a hundred companies across Birmingham and the West Midlands. South African Airways helped by bringing the strips here.
Rob Lake from West Bromwich Albion says: “We are delighted to have been part of this initiative. It has been great to see the Thrive team collecting at our matches and West Bromwich fans donated nearly 1,000 strips.” Such imports to South Africa are normally highly restricted. Thrive has had to obtain special clearance from the South African trade authorities to allow the strips to be imported. However, Thrive member James Baty, trainee solicitor from HBJ Gately Wareing put the case to the South African authorities that the project was for a charitable cause and should be given special clearance. Another Thrive member, Nathan Pritchard from Eversheds, found a suitable NGO partner in South Africa.
Thrive is now working with South African youth charity Nkosi’s Haven to ensure that all the strips as well as shorts and socks that were donated will be distributed to children in townships across the country including Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. Gail Johnson, Founding Director of Nkosi’s Haven, explains: “South Africa is football crazy this year. Kids play on desolate scrub ground with a makeshift ball and kit. This kit will make them feel part of the event and it has been a wonderful sporting and humanitarian gesture that Birmingham should be proud of.”
Nick Venning, Co-Chair and one of the original founders of Thrive, concludes: “This has been a real team effort. It has been something very special to see young professionals from across Birmingham working together and bringing their skill to bear to make this complex project happen. “The Strip Amnesty shows how the business community can work together to deliver corporate social responsibility in a very practical and fun way and everyone involved should feel a sense of achievement that they have helped communities 6,000 miles away.”
Thrive is planning a second shipment soon. Click here to find out more about where the strips are going. You can follow Strip Amnesty on Twitter or search Strip Amnesty on Facebook.
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Regular readers will recall that for the past few weeks the US Embassy and the British High Commission in South Africa have been building a friendly rivalry ahead of the England / USA game in Rustenburg on 12 June.
As part of the ongoing series of challenge events Sunday 18 April saw the return of the Boston Teapot, a long standing tennis tournament between the Americans and the British here in Pretoria.
The tournament had been played annually since 1957 but wasn't contested for the past five years so it was great to see folk picking up their rackets and returning back to the courts. The High Commission fielded a talented team with a blend of experience and raw determination! We all know that Americans make for good tennis players so it was always going to be a challenge to win back the Teapot – it’s been sitting in the American Embassy for far too long!
The American team had some very keen players which made some games rather scary for our less experienced team members. But the morning saw several tie-break matches demonstrating that both sides had some good players and were well matched.
The final tie was a gruelling affair, lasting about an hour and forty minutes. The sun was strong and the players had already played some long matches but with all eyes upon them, they battled on relentlessly. The determination of the British pair won the match to huge cheers from gathered crowd. But, overall the Americans pipped us to the post and once again the Teapot returned to the American Embassy. It was a close run tournament and our team should be very proud of themselves.
The next challenge event will be our version of the Ryder Cup - its Golf and with the British High Commission behind in the overall points total the pressure is on!
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As the title suggests the World Cup will kick off in South Africa in just 48 days, that's a little over a month and a half from now. Time has flown since I started these blogs.
On Wednesday President Zuma attended a celebration in Kimberley to mark the 50 day countdown. Kimberley is not a World Cup venue but it is, of course, world famous for its diamond mines. English fans will hope that come 11 July their team will have unearthed the ultimate football gem and been crowned World Champions.
However, this week the focus of the British High Commission has NOT / NOT been on the World Cup. Unprecedented and global events have meant that we have turned our attention to providing support to the thousands of British nationals that have been affected by the disruption to international air travel caused by the volcanic ash cloud over Europe. High Commission staff and particularly Consular teams at Jo'Burg and Cape Town International Airports are doing all that they can to help stranded compatriots get home as quickly and as safely as possible.
Also on Wednesday, as we responded to the travel situation news reached us that there had been a train crash just outside of Pretoria. A luxury tourist train de-railed in an incident that sadly left 3 dead and about 50 injured. The train is very popular with international tourists so we needed to find out if any British nationals were involved. With swift work and excellent cooperation from the train company we discovered that there were four British nationals on board and that all were well, if a little shaken. We have contacted those that were involved and have offered consular assistance should they need it.
Meanwhile the High Commissioner was at Jo'Burg's International airport to speak to airport and airline officials and to reassure passengers waiting patiently for news of their trip home. Later the High Commissioner appeared on eTV's national "Newsnight" programme. During the interview she was asked about the train crash and the travel disruption and if either might impact on those coming to South Africa for WC2010. This gave the High Commissioner the chance to highlight the key message in our consular "Be on the ball" campaign, specifically, that fans coming to South Africa for the World Cup plan their travel arrangments carefully in advance.
We'll be back at the airports today and every day until things return to normal. We wish everyone, wherever they are, a safe and speedy return to their homes, families and loved ones.
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Every Friday South Africans are encouraged to wear the national colours of green and gold to show their support for the World Cup and for Bafana Bafana, the national football team.
School children across the country are getting into the spirit by adopting one of the 32 participating nations as a team to learn about and (hopefully) support during the finals.
Last Friday I called on the class of Mrs Verne Terry at the Crawford School in Pretoria. Her children were lucky enough to have been drawn to represent England. As you can see from the photo the children have very much entered in the spirit of things and were keen to learn more about England and the rest of the UK. They learnt about our national flowers and how the Union Flag (which is only called a "Jack" when flying from a ship) is comprised of the flags of the countries that make up the UK.
Mrs Terry's class - England supporters
Over the coming weeks the children will learn more about England. I hope to go back nearer to kick off when they have promised to brief me on what they have learnt.
All that remains now is for England to lift the trophy on 11 July.
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On Thursday last week members of the South African Disability Alliance (SADA) burnt tyres at SAFA House, the headquarters of the World Cup organisers located next door to Soccer City.
The protest was about the accessibility of World Cup stadia to people with disabilities. SADA have concerns about access and about an accessible transport plan. They have also expressed concerns that there are limited facilities for deaf and visually impaired persons.
The Local Organising Committee has pointed out that they have worked with FIFA to meet the appropriate standards. Regular readers of these blogs will be aware that we have been in contact with the National Association of Disabled Supporters (NADS) in the UK. Our World Cup Liaison Officer, Jo Bowyer, has visited all of the World Cup venues and in each one she is taking into consideration a check list provided by Joyce Cook of NADS.
The latest news is that Dr Danny Jordaan of the LOC will meet with SADA later this week, to try to resolve outstanding differences. I'll keep you posted on developments in later blogs.
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I started these blogs on Monday 3 August when there were 311 days to go. Time has marched on to the point where one headline yesterday read, simply:
Much has been made over the last few days of how ready South Africa is to host the tournament. A group of international journalists toured the host cities over the weekend and their reports have been mixed. But I’m sure that the stadia will be ready in time for the big kick off come June. Today there are festivities planned in Durban the city that will host South Africa’s next warm up game, against Namibia, on Wednesday.
As well as looking forward to WC2010 the world also needs to look beyond it. What will be happening in South Africa on Tuesday 19 October 2010 - 100 days after the World Cup has been won? By then many eyes will have turned to Brazil as they prepare for both WC2014 and the Olympics of 2016.
It is impossible to predict the future but what I do know is that the British High Commission has a lasting commitment to sports development in South Africa.
Later this week, in the margins of President Zuma’s state visit to Britain, The Sports Ministers of South Africa and the UK are expected to sign an agreement as part of a three year rolling programme of sports co-operation in which projects are:
- Swimming South Africa/British Swimming collaboration in developing South African coaches to UKCC levels 2 and 3, assessors and moderators;
- Rowing South Africa/GB Rowing (ARA) collaboration in developing community coaches in Pietermaritzburg and Soweto;
- Positive Futures cricket programme in Western Cape Province;
- South African Rugby Union/British Rugby Union collaboration; and
- Exchange of Expertise in Various Fields of Government Sport and Recreation Administration
I expect that the activities mentioned in the arrangement will be linked at some point to the planned activity of International Inspiration (II) programme in South Africa. II commenced in SA in 2009 and will bring together key stakeholders in Sport and Education to support the development of PE and School Sport. II main activities:
- Policy makers exchange – forums and workshops to discuss PE and School Sport;
- Through II 30 schools in the UK will be partnered with 30 schools in SA; and
- Leadership training and capacity building for teachers, coaches and community leaders
Of course if I could see the future I’d be able to tell you who scores England’s winning goal on 11 July!
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Whenever somebody asks what England fans should expect of WC2010 I advise that they should be ready for the loudest World Cup ever. The source of most of the noise will be from the now infamous vuvuzela.
Vuvuzelas - you either love 'em or hate 'em!
Normally made of plastic these metre long "stadium horns" have long been a critical component of South Africa football. But some visiting teams have called for them to be banned for the World Cup. This week the African Earplug Company has announced plans to launch team branded vuvuzela ear plugs. Click here to read more.
I've heard various positions on the pros and cons of vuvuzelas since I've been in South Africa. I've had first hand experience on how loud they can be and of the atmosphere that they generate. Earlier this summer I even heard the odd vuvuzela at Centurion during the 1st Test, although I understand that they are still banned from rugby matches.
In a very unscientific way I've conducted a short poll (by SMS message). I'll add the replies when received in the meantime, feel free to join the debate:
"SA footy's cultural weapon of choice which creates a bl**dy great noise and a fantastic atmosphere for the players ....." Matthew Booth, centre half - Sundowns FC and Bafana Bafana.
“Vuvuzelas – commercially-inspired destroyers of genuine atmosphere, generating an unpleasant drone devoid of wit and spontaneity, and totally unrelated to events on the pitch. A poor substitute for real support, they’re a potential blight on an otherwise fabulous tournament” Kevin "Air" Miles, International Director, Football Supporters Federation.
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The African Cup of Nations hosted by Angola started under a cloud with the terrible attack on the Togo side that forced them to pull out of the tournament.
It closed in Luanda on Sunday with the Pharaohs of Egypt claiming their third consecutive African title in a close fought battle with the youngsters from Ghana.
Most commentators here believe that Egypt were worthy winners. But others have expressed surprise that, having failed to qualify for WC2010, Egypt will not be among the African representatives for the continent’s first World Cup later this year.
Many are predicting that an African side will reach at least the quarter final of this year’s World Cup, but the UK press has suggested that most of those with the capability to do so failed to perform in Angola.
England will face Algeria in the group stages of WC2010. Algeria was, worryingly, the team that stopped Egypt from qualifying for South Africa. It’s possible that England could face beaten finalists Ghana in the 1st knock out stage with the winner of that game going on to play either Nigeria or hosts South Africa (who did not qualify to play in Angola) in the quarter final.
Phew, it’s all getting very exciting!
Talking of exciting, if you’d like to read how Egypt’s victory was received in Cairo click here to read my colleague, Jon Davies’, blog.
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South Africa is slowing down, its summer and people are leaving the cities in Gauteng Province for the beaches of Cape Town and Durban. When people return to their desks in the New Year it will be World Cup year.
But before we can focus on football there is the small matter of a test series to be considered. Yesterday the Proteas hosted the touring English cricket team on the first day of the first test at SuperSport Stadium, Centurion.
As 16 December is a public holiday in South Africa cricket fans packed into the stadium and tried to find some shade from the fierce summer sun. The Barmy Army that follow the English team were there in fine voice (although Kevin I'm not sure about that costume). Oh, and if any member of the Barmy Army has lost a white "Saints" baseball cap, drop me a line.
I managed to interview a few of the English faithful to give their "fans perspective" on watching sport in South Africa. I'm hoping to post their thoughts on the "Be on the Ball" website.
South Africa got off to a good start yesterday but a test match, let alone a series, is not won in one day. I wish Andrew and his team the best of luck for the rest of the series.
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When the footballing world gathered in Cape Town last week most of the attention was on who would play who in the World Cup finals next year. Those that watched the draw will have seen David Beckham helping Charlize Theron by pulling balls (and not a golden one among them) from a bowl on stage.
But before the glitz of the draw ceremony the nations that are bidding for the right to host the World Cups in 2018 and 2022 had a chance to make presentations to the FIFA Executive Committee. You can find out more about the English bid by clicking here. David Beckham is an Ambassador for England's bid and he proved to be a very popular visitor to Cape Town.
Whilst in South Africa David and Lord Triesman, the Chairman of the FA, visited Khayelitsha, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town. They were there to learn more about a very important FA project called "Coaching for Hope". The FA invited the High Commissioner along so that she could learn more too.
It came as a bit of a surprise to Dr Brewer when she was offered the chance to have her first ever football training session with a FA supported South Africa coach. These coaches bring professional training to the children of townships like Khayelitsha where it was very clear how much enjoyment the project delivers. The standard of football on display among the kids was impressive evidence of the professionalism of the FA's coaching staff.
Dr Brewer during her first training session with Carlos from "Coaching for Hope"
Despite the excellent coaching skills the High Commissioner is unlikley to break into the ranks of professional footballers but she was able to express her support to the English bid for WC 2018 / 2022.
Back the Bid - Dr Brewer with David Beckham, Lord Triesman and some of the children of Khayelitsha
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Cape Town is excited, very excited. The great and the good in the footballing world community are here to witness what FIFA are promising will be a great World Cup draw event.
Of course no one knows what surprises (or dare I say it "Groups of Death") the draw will provide but one thing is for sure. With 20 of the top 22 FIFA ranked countries attending this is probably the strongest World Cup field ever assembled. Whichever team lifts the trophy on 11 Jul 2010 will be worthy World Champions.
By 9pm tonight (local time) fans around the world will know where and when their teams will play in the first stage of the competition. Visits to the FCO's dedicated World Cup website and the one launched today by the Football Supporters Federation will help English fans plan their trips for what is sure to be a great tournament.
At home I'd close by saying "fingers crossed" for a good draw, but here the expression is slightly different. So later today I'll be "holding thumbs" that England's draw is a kind one.
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Last week the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) launched a consular communications campaign aimed at offering travelling English fans balanced and credible advice to help them prepare their trips to WC2010.
The media reports of the launch were, at best, mixed. In the UK the “Star” newspaper warned England fans that they were heading for a World Cup in “hell”. In South Africa there was concern that the British Government was overstating the threat of crime here.
A visit to the FCO’s dedicated World Cup web page will show that neither view is represented in the core campaign messages. At the launch event FCO Minister, Chris Bryant stated that he expected English fans to get a very warm welcome in South Africa a view shared by British High Commissioner Dr Nicola Brewer.
The key campaign message is for fans to plan their visits in advance to ensure they maximise their enjoyment of this wonderful country.
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The Consular Directorate of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has launched their advisory campaign for WC2010. With the snappy title of "Be on the Ball" the campaign aims to help England fans travelling to South Africa next year to have a safe and enjoyable trip.
We're delighted that Spurs and England legend Gary Mabbutt agreed to be the "brand Ambassador" for "Be on the Ball" and be at the official campaign launch event earlier today. Gary is also an Ambassador for South Africa's World Cup bid which means that he is extremely well placed to offer his insights on this amazing country. At the launch Gary said:
"I have been lucky enough to travel around South Africa a great deal and I truly believe it will be an amazing experience for any fan travelling to watch their team play. As with any country though, there are unique laws to be aware of and areas to be avoid so we're really urging fans to take the necessary precautions before travelling".
Foreign Office Minister, Chris Bryant MP stressed that " ..it is crucial that those planning to travel to the region are aware of what measures they should take to stay safe."
The South African media picked up on the UK press release, broadly welcoming the sensible messages that the campaign contains. Talk Radio station 702 found it a little ironic that English fans were being informed about the cold weather that will great them (it'll be winter here). Meanwhile the more "humorous" Jacaranda FM station went with a line that the British Government was warning English fans to be wary of lions, suggesting that it might be better to warn the lions to be wary of English fans!