Security concerns surround World Cup

Every four years, in front of the eyes of the world, countries battle it out on the soccer pitch for one common goal: winning the FIFA World Cup.

This year, it is to South Africa we turn, on a continent that has never before held the World Cup.

Since FIFA awarded South Africa with the responsibility of hosting the event, much controversy has arisen about whether or not the country has the necessary capabilities to support it. Security for players, fans and other people travelling to South Africa has been at the forefront of most of the concerns.

The African continent is not exactly known for its stable politics; this was evident earlier this year, during Africa’s biggest soccer tournament, the Africa Cup of Nations.

Hosted by Angola, the tournament was far from free of security breaches.

On Jan. 8, two days before the scheduled kickoff of the tournament, the team from Togo was travelling on their bus en route to the grounds of their first match, when their bus was attacked by terrorists.

Three were killed, including the assistant coach, the bus driver and a media officer, and nine others were seriously injured. Defender Serge Akakpo and goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilalé were two of those seriously injured, and remained in critical condition for several weeks following the attack.

The assault prompted Togo to withdraw from the tournament, as they no longer felt safe allowing their players to compete.

This in turn began a ripple effect of concern across the globe, as countries began to question the safety of the players they were sending into such an unknown, unstable territory. U.S. President Barak Obama further pressed the security issues, when he stated that if the United States makes it out of the group stage, he will travel to South Africa to support the team.

But then one looks at the heartwarming story of a previously war torn continent, attempting to fix its reputation with the rest of the world through a medium where all are equal: sport. K’naan’s song “Wavin’ Flag”, selected as the official song of the World Cup, provides positive reinforcement to anyone with lingering doubts.

K’nann encourages the world to forget about its differences and enjoy the greatest game in the world.

For 31 days this summer, politics will be irrelevant, elections will mean nothing and which countries are fighting with whom will be forgotten. Players set aside their club jerseys and join their league rivals under their country’s colours. The world, as one unified body, will watch the brilliant feet of Lionel Messi, the unwavering passion of Wayne Rooney and the lightning speed of David Villa as people cheer on their country towards the biggest prize in the game.

South Africa has assured the world they will be ready for this, and they deserve an opportunity to allow the African continent to become a bigger part of a game that is more than just a game to them.

So until they prove us wrong, give South Africa a chance. They may just surprise us.

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