Everything’s heating up and, in a month’s time, it should be at the boiling point.
A month before the World Cup in South Africa and the world is beginning to get a picture of how things will look. It is going to be a great adventure and in so many ways a great mystery.
Cutting through the platitudes, political correctness and glossy marketing strategies that emphasize just how good everything is going to be, no one has any idea how it is all going to play out.
Will it surprise everyone and run smoothly?
Or will it operate in the same fashion as it did when Africans were given their first opportunity to buy tickets for cash?
Some people were in line for 16 hours and still couldn’t buy tickets because computers crashed. There was pushing and shoving at some venues and police were called in to break up fights.
South African organizers are somewhat sensitive to bad press for good reason. Much has been written about violent crime, price gouging and a lack of infrastructure. That kind of press has put the fear of travel into many fans.
Going broke to attend a World Cup is something a lot of fans will do gladly.
But going broke while getting getting legally robbed by hotels and ticket vendors and then going through the same thing with real criminals is not anyone’s idea of a good time.
Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the World Cup organizing committee, has admitted there is no way his estimate of 450,000 of foreign visitors that were expected for the tournament is going to happen. That has been dramatically revised down from initial estimates of 450,000 to between 100,000 and 200,000. The good news is that more than 100,000 tickets were sold in the first 24 hours that cash sales began.
Most were the less pricey tickets but it eased the fears of South African organizers that there would have to deal with plenty of empty seats for some games.
Most everyone though is interested in what’s happening on the field and national teams have begun to release their preliminary rosters of up to 30 players.
The biggest uproar so far has been created by Italian coach Marcello Lippi. His partial preliminary roster looks like a master’s roster for senior players.
The most shocking inclusion is Gennaro Gattuso, who hasn’t played regularly on his club side. Then there’s Gianluca Zambrotta and Fabio Grosso, both defenders who have had terrible years; Vincenzo Iaquinta, who has yet to prove he can score on a regular basis in international competition; and Pepe, who is a Lippi favourite but not many other’s favourite.
Lippi has left out Antonio Cassano and Fabrizio Miccoli. Both are strikers. Both are in great form. Miccoli is among the top scorers in the Serie A. The final rosters have to be submitted by June 1. Seriously-injured players may be replaced up to 24 hours before the team’s first match. Good thing because that’s one other aspect of the World Cup that is beginning to take centre stage. With a month to go, the list of injured players is long.
Most of them claim they will be back, but how realistic is that?
England’s Wayne Rooney and Garreth Barry to name two, Spain’s Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and the latest worry, Xavi Hernandes. Then there’s Ghana’s Michael Essien who isn’t sure he wants to risk permanent injury to play. German No. 1 keeper Rene Adler won’t play. The United States has serious injury problems including Charlie Davies. The Netherlands have Wesley Sneijder injury worries.
With the horrendous international and club schedule these players face, the real story may be who won’t be at the World Cup rather than who will be.