Defeat compared to Soweto uprising
World Cup organising chief Danny Jordaan has drawn comparisons between South Africa's 3-0 defeat at the hands of Uruguay on Wednesday and the Soweto uprising which occurred on the same date 34 years ago.
On June 16, 1976 hundreds of people were killed when students from the township marched in protest at being forced to be schooled in Afrikaans. Police opened fire on protestors and the image of the death of 13-year-old Hector Pieterson became an iconic one in the fight against apartheid.
Speaking after South Africa saw their chances of reaching the last 16 of the World Cup severely reduced by a defeat in Pretoria, Jordaan sought parallels between the two events. "Yesterday [Wednesday] was June 16 and on June 16, 1976 it was the youth that was slaughtered on the streets of South Africa, I suppose in part for future hope," he said. "I hope that Bafana Bafana's slaughtering on the field last night is also in the name of future hope. Our current hope for Bafana Bafana in this tournament has been badly damaged.
"Two things are important for a World Cup. One is that the host nation's team perform and we saw the result of that after the Mexico game [which South Africa drew 1-1]. Last night the team just couldn't get into first gear. This was a hugely disappointing night for South Africa and it left the tournament in pain. June 16 was another night of pain. What is important now is that the fans embrace the tournament beyond the Bafana team. We always knew that we would have to sustain the interest of South Africans in the tournament, as well as in the team. It is important for event success in the end.
"We saw the shock and pain of the World Cup yesterday - the shock of Spain losing [to Switzerland] and the pain of South Africa. But the tournament will continue and I think you will see the spirit of South Africans, they will support the team again and blow the vuvuzelas again."
Despite the unwelcome sight of swathes of empty seats at a number of World Cup fixtures, Jordaan insists the organising committee is happy with ticket sales for the tournament. He has also pinpointed transport issues as contributing to the issue, with South Africans apparently reluctant to use the public transport provided.
"We may end up selling more tickets than Germany in 2006 in the end which would take us to the second-highest ticket sales in the World Cup," he said. "That is simply because of the capacity of the stadiums - we have big stadiums in this country. The United States had some stadiums with huge capacity, so I think we may end up with the second-highest number of tickets sold for a World Cup.
"We have had to bring about a transport revolution. In South Africa it's one person, one car, and we want them to use public transport. The train into Soccer City can take 2,500 passengers at a time, and we planned ten trains, but they were under-utilised - too many people tried to get there by car. We have to look at a plan for the final which restricts the number of cars coming to Soccer City to give us a better flow."
Jordaan also praised South African police after they were forced to assume responsibility for security at half the World Cup venues following a steward strike. "Long before kick-off we had gone through various scenarios of 'what if?' so that the police could deal with the scenario that we now have, and they have done an incredible job.''