February 7, 2003 - Fox Sports: Peace Corps Doctor Tom Simpson asks if Africa is ready to host the 2010 World Cup

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By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, February 08, 2003 - 4:26 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Doctor Tom Simpson asks if Africa is ready to host the 2010 World Cup





Read and comment on this story from Fox Sports by Kenya Peace Corps Doctor Tom Simpson who wonders if Africa is ready to host the 2010 World Cup when many say that a World Cup in Africa would be a probable catastrophe. One only has to look at the insane response in Northern Nigeria recently to a comment made by a local journalist that Mohamed might have really enjoyed meeting one or more of those women who had come there for the Miss World contest. The comment sparked a killing spree that led to 200 deaths. Ask Nigerians about the situation there. The Muslims and the Christians are poised with hands outstretched to choke one anotherís throats.

"Sure," says Simpson, "if FIFA has any sense at all, they will listen to people like Allen Hopkins and they should take his advice. On the other hand, if FIFA listens to the people of Africa, I donít think thereís a better choice. Besides itís about time Western World gave something back to Africa. So to hell with all the reasons why the World Cup shouldnít happen in Africa. If thereís any continent in the World that needs the World Cup, if thereís a continent that can show itís love for the game, and if thereís any continent that would show itís appreciation for the games being staged there, itís Africa." Read the story at:


An expert asks if Africa is ready to host the 2010 World Cup*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



An expert asks if Africa is ready to host the 2010 World Cup

BY TOM SIMPSON

Special to FOXSports.com

Feb. 7, 2003 3:37 p.m.

Dr. Simpson is a San Francisco pediatrician who lived in Africa for many years working with the Peace Corps. Heís also traveled extensively all over the soccer world and in 1997 led a historic trip, taking the first U.S. soccer team to visit Vietnam since the end of the war (the trip was chronicled by ESPNís program Outside the Lines).

When Allen Hopkins asked me to write about staging the World Cup in Africa in 2010 I was taken aback because I thought what would I say? I heard rumors FIFA was interested but I didnít take them seriously.

After reading Allenís column, I found myself thinking heíd really said it all. What more needs to be said? What can I add? Africa is not ready. The World Cup in Africa is a probable catastrophe.

Allen mentioned the lack of infrastructure, but the inability of Africa to host the World Cup goes many layers beyond the lack of stadiums. There is no money in Africa. How does FIFA expect to make a penny? In fact, itís likely that FIFA will lose money.

And what about the security? What African country has the ability to provide enough security to protect Westerners from going to Africa, regardless of the country, to risk exposure to terrorists and thieves? And what about travel? Have you ever driven on an African road or taken public transportation in Africa.

Anyone who thinks these arenít real risks just doesnít know Africa.

One only has to look at the insane response in Northern Nigeria recently to a comment made by a local journalist that Mohamed might have really enjoyed meeting one or more of those women who had come there for the Miss World contest. The comment sparked a killing spree that led to 200 deaths. Ask Nigerians about the situation there. The Muslims and the Christians are poised with hands outstretched to choke one anotherís throats.

Saying all to this is not easy for me. I love Africa. I lived there many years. My deceased wife was African, born and raised in rural Kenya, and my children were born there, some of them in bush hospitals. I have countless relatives in Africa. They fill the hillside above the village of Kapsokwany on the slopes of Mount Elgon. I have nothing but good memories of Africa. I have nothing but the belief that Africa deserves better than it currently is experiencing.

Africaís troubles are not solely itís own making. Africa didnít seek to become a collection of modern countries with electrical lines, paved roads, and skyscrapers. All of this was inspired, and thrustetd upon them and fostered by the Europeans who colonized the continent.

Some Africans are happy to have benefited from the colonization of their continent by foreign cultures, but many arenít.

Africa has experienced unbelievable changes since Europe first invaded its shores. Make no bones about it Europeans did not go to Africa as Peace Corps volunteers. They went there for their own purposes and progress: gold, diamonds, ivory, slavery, land, and they grabbed the best and most productive land creating lush farms, and idyllic lifestyles, all at the expense of the people and animals who lived there.

Now Africa has supplanted their colonizers and those in power have, in many cases, behaved with the same self-gratification of their white counterparts who preceded them. Africa has grown dramatically and some countries had, up until AIDS began decimating the populations, the highest growth rates in the world.

Rapid growth, the dissolution of tribal customs and the arbitrary imposition of national boundaries have been a recipe for horrible and trying consequences. Most African countries are impoverished to levels that are not imaginable by Westerners, TV pictures donít do it justice.

Recently I returned to Africa, specifically Kenya and Malawi. I visited my Kenya born daughter now a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi. I also visited orphanages for children with HIV, did some teaching at the medical school in Malawi, and worked with UNICEF on the prevention of HIV transmission from mother to baby.

Although the soccer community knows me as a coach and an ex-owner of a San Francisco professional soccer team, my real profession is medicine Iím a pediatrician. I also speak Swahili fluently and can even jabber in Chichewa. It becomes useful when you want to know whatís going on.

I feel that I see Africa in ways that few Westerners see Africa because of my experiences there, because I can hear what Africans have to say, and because my African family is well over 10 times the size of a normal European/American family.

I was deeply saddened by my recent trip to Africa. I saw many Africans die, most of them children. I saw far more who were going to die. HIV has had devastating effects in Kenya and Malawi.

The Africa I saw reminds me of a patient with a terminal illness. The eyes are sunken and darkened. The face is expressionless. The patient hardly has the energy to stand, and the gait has no spring to it. The hand is often held out with the palm upwards.

Allan Patton said it long ago, and prophetically, ďCry the Beloved Country.Ē I think that Iím constantly crying inside, in a quiet personal way, that no one can see, and I donít mind admitting it.

I really canít agree with Allen Hopkins more. He has cited many reasons why Africa is a bad choice for the World Cup in 2010. I added oil to the fire he set by citing more reasons why it wonít work. Yet, my heart is not with this rational conclusion.

True if FIFA is smart and if FIFA wants to do the best for FIFA, it should look elsewhere. Allen would love for FIFAís eyes to redirect towards the United States. And I think heís right. Itís well known that the World Cup of 1994 was the most financially successful World Cup in the history of the games. It would be a repeat, no question.

The irony being that the vast majority of Americans donít give a hoot about this great sport that has the potential to unify the world in ways that diplomacy and business could only dream of. From that perspective, the USA doesnít deserve this sport and certainly the USA doesnít need the financial benefit from this sport.

Africa, on the other hand, loves soccer with a passion Americans donít really understand. Maybe the image of Willie Mays, the child, hitting a ball with a stick on the streets of Brooklyn conjures up emotion that is reasonably close to the passion that children have for this game in Africa.

I once watched a game on the island of Mombasa, in Kenya, played next to an old Portuguese fort that overlooked the Indian ocean. The field was about 40-50 yards long, but irregular without one right angle to a corner. It was all dirt, with rocks jutting from the ground here and there. There wasnít one flat area. It was near the islandís edge. One sideline was jagged rock and the slope down to the water. Another was the wall of the fort. One goal line was half way up the hill towards the shops that surrounded the fort. The other goal line was at the end of the angle where the fort met the water.

The ball had no cover. The playerís had no shoes. The goal was made of tree branches, unequal in size, knotted with rope and crooked in construction, barely able to survive a shot on the post.

The players had uniforms, amazingly. One team was green. The other was blue. Every square inch of space that could be occupied by fans was, and there may have been 1000 people crammed into a total space that might b e sufficient for 75 people to stand without touching one another. Yet no one cared about any of that.

I, and my children, all soccer people, watched this game in utter disbelief from the top of the fortís wall. When the Blue team scored against the Green, you might have thought for a moment, a goal has scored in a World Cup match.

Sure, if FIFA has any sense at all, they will listen to people like Allen Hopkins and they should take his advice. On the other hand, if FIFA listens to the people of Africa, I donít think thereís a better choice. Besides itís about time Western World gave something back to Africa.

So to hell with all the reasons why the World Cup shouldnít happen in Africa. If thereís any continent in the World that needs the World Cup, if thereís a continent that can show itís love for the game, and if thereís any continent that would show itís appreciation for the games being staged there, itís Africa.

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