Germany To Host 2006 World Cup

Thursday, July 6th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) — Germany's in, South Africa's out, and soccer failed to make a historic step to stage the World Cup in Africa for the first time.

In the closest vote ever, 12-11 with one abstention, Germany on Thursday was awarded the 2006 World Cup over South Africa even though the president of soccer's world federation campaigned heavily for the African nation.

``I was a little bit sad that the executive committee had not the courage to innovate,'' FIFA president Sepp Blatter said. ``We have to trust Africa and we have to take this decision. We have to take the risk, otherwise they will never have a chance.''

The decision was a stunner even to the Germans.

``Actually, I'm surprised,'' former German star Franz Beckenbauer said after spearheading his country's campaign. ``I'm not prepared for this because you can't be prepared for this. It was a very close result. We'd hoped for this but we couldn't expect it.''

South African President Thabo Mbeki called it a ``tragic day for Africa,'' while former English star Terry Paine was angered by the decision.

``It's 10 times for Europe now, and no times for Africa,'' Paine, who threw his support behind South Africa after England, as well as Morocco, were eliminated in the first rounds of balloting.

``I feel particularly sorry for (bid leader) Danny Jordaan, who has really led the fight with tremendous commitment and passion, and for all the African people. We just wonder when Africa can indeed get the World Cup.''

The World Cup is the biggest sports event on the planet, with a two-year-long qualifying stage that winnows almost 2000 teams to a final group of 32 nations. The final rounds last a month and attract billions of fans watching on TV.

Like the Olympics, the World Cup gives the countries that stage it unprecedented exposure and the chance to pump billions of dollars into their economies.

The dramatic vote by FIFA's executive committee ended four years of campaigning by the bidding countries. Down to the final four in Thursday's vote, England and Morocco were eliminated in the first two rounds, and Germany and South Africa were tied at 11 votes each.

In the final round, with 24 people voting, two voters had to change their minds. One went for Germany; the other, New Zealand's Charles Dempsey, chose to abstain.

``He had promised us that, if England were eliminated before the final round, his vote would come to South Africa,'' said Emmanuel Maradas, a member of the South African bidding team.

If Dempsey voted for South Africa to make it 12-all, Blatter would have cast the deciding vote.

``We always knew that UEFA (the European soccer union) carries big votes, so they had a very strong starting position,'' Jordaan said. ``This was a very transparent, very open process, and it strengthened the whole debate on Africa's role within global football.

``But Africa is one of the biggest blocs in FIFA. There is often a reference to the FIFA membership as the `footballing family.' You can't have a family and feed only one child and leave the others to starve.''

FIFA inspectors gave top marks to Germany's plans for the tournament, which will kick off on June 9, 2006 at Munich's Olympic stadium, with the final to be played July 9 in Berlin.

South Africa initially was the overwhelming favorite and apparently had been boosted by Brazil's last-minute withdrawal Monday in its favor. Beckenbauer said on Tuesday Germany had even considered withdrawing.

Voters were not required to explain their decision, although David Will, a high-ranking FIFA official from Scotland, said there may have been concerns about sending the cup to Africa so soon after awarding it to Asia for the first time.

The 1998 World Cup was held in France, and the 2002 Cup will be staged in South Korea and Japan. Germany last hosted the World Cup in 1974 as West Germany.

South Africa, long excluded from international sports because of its apartheid regime, figured Blatter's support would be enough to secure the World Cup. While it was shunned by the International Olympic Committee in bidding for the 2004 Summer Games, it played host to the Rugby World Cup in 1995. The rugby tournament is a much smaller event.

Before the vote, Blatter, the head of soccer's world governing body, implored FIFA to `Make history! Take the World Cup to Africa!''

When it didn't, Blatter tried to console the South African delegation, kissing members' cheeks, patting their shoulders.

``I'm sad, too,'' Blatter told them quietly. ``I did everything I could.''

Morocco was the first country eliminated in the voting, and England went out after the second vote.

England's cause was severely damaged by the violence of English hooligans in Brussels and Charleroi last month at the European championships.

``If you're proud of the your country you have a funny way of showing it,'' Bobby Charlton, a former English star who served on England's bid committee, said in addressing the hooligans.