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World Cup 2010 host South Africa fears no fall-out over the deadly ambush on Togo’s football team in Angola, saying the attack will not affect its staging of FIFA’s June showcase.
Seen from afar, Africa’s national boundaries sometimes blur, masking the differences between the continent’s countries. A British Premier League manager has already said Friday’s shooting threw a “question mark” over South Africa’s hosting of the 32-nation tournament.
But the shooting that left at least two dead took place thousands of kilometres northwest of Pretoria, and organisers and analysts dismissed any threat to Africa’s year of football.
“We regard what happened in Angola as an isolated terrorist incident. It should be treated as such,” 2010 local organising spokesman Rich Mkhondo told AFP.
“No impact on South Africa. South Africa is not Angola.”
South Africa hosts the FIFA event for the first time on African soil, 16 years after the fall of white minority rule, and has worked to ease fears over rampant crime and the state of its transport facilities.
The World Cup follows several big events in South Africa, all of which unfolded without incident: the 2009 dry run Confederations Cup, a last-minute hosting of the cricket’s Indian Premier League after terror attacks in Mumbai, and successful cricket and rugby world cups.
“There is often sort of a mythical comparison between Angola and South Africa,” said Jakkie Cilliers, executive director of the Institute for Security Studies think tank.
“These are two very, very different countries in terms of their capacity, their border control, the resources, infrastructure and so on available. The security framework within South Africa is much, much more developed than that in Angola.”
The manager for English Premiership team Hull City Phil Brown said the ambush raised questions about 2010.
“I am appalled,” Brown told Saturday’s edition of Britain’s Sun newspaper.
“This throws a question mark against next summer’s World Cup.
“You simply cannot put the safety of players, officials and fans at the slightest risk. That is totally unacceptable.
South Africa expects to welcome some 450,000 fans in June with a revamped transport system, plush stadiums, and a no-nonsense police presence to offset fears of a crime rate that averages nearly 50 killings a day.
“We ask those who have bought tickets and are coming to South Africa to visit to enjoy themselves. They will be secure,” said Mkhondo.
“We believe that there are reasonable people out there who will realise that there is a difference between Angola, South Africa, England, Pakistan and any other country.”
Tyrone Seale, a South African government 2010 spokesman, said the Togo attack was likely to sharpen planning, saying a safe tournament will be held.
“Anything like this is deplorable,” he said. “In this year of the 2010 World Cup, this will obviously compel South Africa and partner countries to look even more closely at preparations and our planning.”
“We would repeat our assurances to the international community that we will host the World Cup safely.”
Cilliers expressed also confidence in the country’s 2010 capabilities, saying he believes the country is a safe destination.
“South Africa has invested a tremendous amount of effort in planning the security around the World Cup,” he told AFP.
“I can’t see any particular reason why this attack is going to heighten the risk in any particular way.”