I cannot remember being angrier. A young journalist from Irish radio had called minutes after the announcement and asked for an interview. As he put his questions, images of Shakes Mashaba appeared on our television screen in the newsroom of 702 where I was at the time of the big reveal. Shakes was in tears. The whole country was in tears. Despite presenting a killer bid we had just lost the right to host the Fifa World Cup in 2006. It had all looked so good. A tied final vote and Sepp Blatter would have voted for us. Charlie Dempsey, the Kiwi Scot, was mandated to nod for us if England were out of the race, and they were. It was going to be a draw and we would win in extra time. Champagne bottles were being primed. In the heel of the hunt, Dempsey, a big mate of Franz Beckenbauer who headed the German bid, did the only possible thing that could scupper our victory; he abstained. He claimed he was put under extreme pressure. There was no tie, and thus Blatter never voted and Germany were named as hosts. Dempsey was roundly vilified and he retired ahead of his time and subsequently passed on. Some said it was from shame. Germany hosted a massive World Cup and we did the same in 2010. Cynically, one could say that we learnt from our defeat over 2006 and played by different rules in bidding for 2010. We lost our innocence. We donated to dodgy Diaspora Funds… More is still to come on that one suspects.
The journalist asked questions, annoyingly, as though we had just lost a sporting game of football. He was cheerful and excited and young. His whole tone was so out of sync with local emotions that I lost it and said that not only was the decision a disgrace, it was a fucking disgrace! That shook him. Shocked disclaimers followed about content but I explained why there was so much fury. We had been screwed. We had won fair and square and been shafted. It was just not cricket, so to speak. The Rainbow Nation deserved to win and we had been cheated. I wanted to rock him on his heels and did.
Over the next few weeks hundreds of calls and communications were received. My Mum in Ireland had been listening. My old vicar was the same. Judge Tebbit, from South Africa, was on holiday and listening in his hired car. He said he nearly swerved off the road. People were shocked at the language but said it had demonstrated to them, dramatically, just how angry we were about the injustice. They got it. They were angry too.
The memory returned at the announcement that we are the preferred option to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Champagne is once again being primed, or cooled, or whatever. Congratulations are being proffered and accepted. We are going to host the World Cup again. We are going to relive 1995 and, boy, do we need it.
If it is the case, why is there a secret ballot being held at the World Rugby Council meeting in London on November 15th? If the panel of experts was so objective in their recommendation of South Africa as leading after examining 18 technical areas, why is there a vote? Surely the vote to accept the result should have been taken before the panel did its work? The whole idea is to avoid soccer style scandals. Why the vote? Why the secret ballot? It scares me.
We bid for 2011 and were sure Ireland would vote for us then. She voted for New Zealand. Do we really expect that memories of similar support will count for nothing? Japan has favours to return as well. All countries do for all sorts of reasons. Sadly, in recent years, South Africa has not been popular in World Rugby circles. We have made bad decisions and, at times, backed wrong horses. With Zuma and the Guptas in charge we are no longer seen as a model in democracy and fiduciary excellence. Politically, at present, we are seen as a joke on the word stage. There is no Madiba magic any more. Don’t expect any favours.
I hope we get the Rugby World Cup. After the fiasco of the Commonwealth Games and the Global League T20 we need a good news target at which to aim. I hope the vote is a rubber stamp but remember that day in 2000.
Remember the chickens Clarisse!