Confederations Cup Special: Crime Review

Following the climax of a very successful Confederations Cup tournament, takes a look at the issue of security and crime at the event…
With less than a year on the clock to the kick-off of the 2010 World Cup at Soweto's stunning Soccer City, players, managers, fans, and crucially FIFA's top brass all gave the rainbow nation the thumbs up. Despite the vote of confidence it is important to take a look at the few incidents where security was breached, analysing whether or not it is a major problem ahead of next year’s event.

Throughout the two-week Confederations Cup competition, very few incidents of crime related to the event were reported, but there were two high-profile cases, and a few mugging incidents that took place surrounding the tournament.

According to reports last week, two journalists covering the Confederations Cup for Reuters were mugged in a FIFA-designated parking lot at Loftus Stadium, while returning to their vehicle after a media briefing. Mike Collett and a colleague were walking towards their car when they were accosted by two thugs who demanded money from them. The two media workers handed over some money and the criminals fled the scene. Other than a few rumoured cases where muggings were spoken about, this seemed to be an isolated incident.

The much-publicised Egyptian and Brazilian hotel thefts have been the stand-out cases at the Confederations Cup, with some valuables and money stolen from the hotels while the teams were away. The North African team suggested that hotel staff were to blame for the theft, but the staff in question denied the claims. The South African media blamed prostitutes that were allegedly present during the time of the Egyptian theft, but no evidence was produced on the matter and investigations are ongoing.

A few days after the Egyptian theft, the Brazil national team reported a similar situation, with coach Dunga saying that there was a robbery incident at the hotel. The coach did not elaborate, but team spokesman Rodrigo Paiva said "a jacket and some money" disappeared from some of the rooms at the Centurion Lake hotel, just outside Pretoria. The spokesperson believed that it happened when the team went to a safari last week, and Paiva said Brazil contacted authorities about the incident.

Deputy Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula addressed the issue of security for the Confederations Cup and the upcoming World Cup, saying that from a security perspective, there was no major breach of security and that all reported cases were classified as unfortunate and regarded as isolated. “Government has spent R1.2-billion (US$124-million) on security. No country is going to do that if we are not serious about the safety of those attending games.”

Local Organising Committee CEO Danny Jordaan and Mbalula came under intense interrogation from international media who quizzed the two about incidences that had occurred during the Confederations Cup. The case of the Egyptian football team in particular, who allegedly lost about R19 500 ($2 500) from their hotel, was widely reported.

The team reported that they were robbed of money and other valuable items. “We are investigating this matter, and so far, we can say that this was an unfortunate incident,” said Mbalula. Jordaan implicitly assured journalists that a high-level security plan had been put in place not only at the stadiums, but also at the hotel rooms where the different football teams were staying. Following allegations that the Egyptian team had invited prostitutes to their private hotel rooms, Mbalula cautioned that they could not protect the teams against such actions. “We also encourage people to take responsibility and not invite security unfriendly individuals to their hotels. “However police are still investigating and we hope that the end product will be successful and bring the criminals to book.”

The CEO also cautioned journalists against sensationalising crime in South Africa during sporting events. He said that while international media should report on incidences, they should verify the facts as not to create unnecessary anxiety for football fans intending on visiting South Africa next year. “Judge us on what is actually happening, and not what you might have heard happened. Please report the facts. I have been to many World Cup tournaments across the globe and there’s no difference with what is currently taking place in South Africa. In terms of safety and security, everything is running smoothly and no major crime related incidents were reported.”

Mbalula also added that he was proud of the police service. He said that cases brought before the department would be thoroughly investigated to prevent them from happening again next year. “We will investigate incidences case by case. We will have to check with the operation teams on the ground in terms of where we went wrong, and what we can improve.

“We take our lessons from here. Where there have been problems, we will strengthen them,” added Jordaan.

The key issue during the Confederations Cup was the fact that there were very few incidents to report, and in the cases that were reports, not incidents of violent crime took place. The tournament officials, players, fans and all those involved were kept safe, and crime was kept to a minimum. Despite this, much more is planned ahead of next year’s event in order to maintain the safety and security of all those who will form part of the 2010 World Cup, from teams and fans, to the vendors who sell flags on the side of the street.

The only unfortunate death the took place at the FIFA Confederations Cup was that of German journalist Wolfgang Jost, who was killed in a car accident on the way to the semi-final between Spain and the United States in Bloemfontein last Wednesday. This was not a product of crime, but it is always sad to lose anyone at an event of this nature, and wish to extend their condolences to Jost’s family, friends and colleagues.

In general the tournament has been a success, and United States coach Bob Bradley spoke for many when he concluded, "We have had an amazing time in South Africa. The way people have treated us like friends, their passion for the game, the security personnel who actually smile, the organisation - in all those ways it's been a great experience and every man in our squad would say they can't wait to complete the task of qualifying and get back here next year."

Peter Pedroncelli,