8 July 2010

South Africa: Brazil Talks Up 2014 World Cup After Durban's Air Traffic Fiasco

Brazilian big guns Romario, Carlos Alberto Parreira and Ricardo Teixeira promised "airports, airports, airports" for 2014, when their huge country will host the World Cup. It's a touchy subject in Durban after private jets blocked the runways and 700 people had to go home.

There are only two matches left in the 2010 World Cup extravaganza but the battle for the hearts and minds of World Cup 2014 has already begun. And the big guns are out.

World Cup winner Romario, World Cup winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira and Ricardo Teixeira, the chairman of the 2014 organising committee.

Romario said that it would be a fantastic atmosphere in Brazil and the country would put on a great show. Parreira more or less said the same but things more substantive were demanded of Teixeira.

Would the country be split into four regions? Would Sao Paulo get a new stadium? Would Brazil pick where they were based?

He looked as if he did not want to be in front of the questions. And then had a severe bout of the politicians.

When asked what the most pressing concerns were in preparation for the football fest - he echoed Tony Blair's "Education, education, education" by chanting "Airports, airports, airports."

I immediately started to fear for my World Cup coverage. Images of the aeroporto domestico at Luanda flashed before my eyes. The seething sweaty mass of travellers, the lurid odours emerging from the toilets and the suitcase with the dried fish.

Well if Mr Teixeira feels there is a problem, I hope they can deal with it. You don't want an aeroporto lurido when you get your feathers ready for fiesta time in Brazil.

And they don't want any repeats of Wednesday night's fiasco in Durban where about 700 people had to go back to Johannesburg airport because the Durban airport runways were blocked by private jets parked up for the night's match.

You'll be happy to know that that's the last time I lend out my 20-seater.

The damage-limitation suits from Fifa circumvented the looming PR disaster like troopers. Since early June there have been 50,000 flights in and out of South African airports, they chirped. And the airports authorities have done admirably, they beamed.

They also said that 2,700 tickets were available for the third place play-off in Port Elizabeth between Uruguay and Germany on Saturday.

Best way to get there? Airplane.

Romario is unlikely to be at that match. He will probably be schmoozing all the way into the VVIP lounges at Soccer City.

The former goal machine was asked his views for Sunday's final between the Netherlands and Spain.

Romario reminded us that he'd played for five and a half years in the Netherlands at PSV Eindhoven before going to Barcelona. So he said his heart was split. So far so good.

"These are the two top teams in the world, from a technical view," he added. "It will be a great final. Football will be the winner."

1-0 Romario.

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