Hello everyone!

Today for the 1st edition of football portraits on My Football Lounge, I am pointing out Danny Jordaan’s work as Chief Executive Officer of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. Danny Jordaan is the most important man in football at the moment. He fought to bring the World Cup to Africa and is now in charge of the success of the most important sporting event worldwide.

Jordaan 58 years old, is a former teacher and a member of  the Steve Biko’s anti-apartheid South African Students’ Organisation in the 60′s. In 1997 he became head of SAFA (South Africa Football Association) in order to be fully dedicated on the 2006 and 2010 World Cup bids.

The upcoming World Cup in South Africa is the result of  more than 13 years of hard work. Indeed, he fought to bring the World Cup to South Africa by bidding for the 2006 World Cup which was narrowly lost to Germany. Danny did not let go and kept on working to finally win the 2010 bid and host the World Cup in his homeland. With the World Cup 52 days away, Jordaan is now the most important man in the whole world of sports and he has to deliver an event some are keen on “bazooka-ing” for various reasons.

At the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, a fan asked Jordaan: “What will you give us in our hearts to show our children and grandchildren?” His reply: “We want to achieve something that has never happened in our country and continent for a hundred years. How will it touch your lives? Job creation and economic growth.” (source: The Guardian).

Jordaan is dealing with a great and powerfully important task. Deliver a successful World Cup on the African soil for the first time in its history but most importantly bring and sustainable economic growth to the country. Not an easy duty if you ask me. But Danny is showing in press conferences confidence in an upcoming successful World Cup. I read the other day that if he was given 1 pound every time he was asked about security in South Africa, he would be the richest man in the country. He gave the following answer to James Emmett (SportsProMedia.com): “The question of security is always important for any major event, not just because about crime but also whether there is any threat globally whether it is terrorism or any other threat; these matters must be considered carefully by any event organisers”.

Very good answer. Yes security is a concern, but must not be THE main issue. To my knowledge, South Africa already has an experience in organising sports events. In cricket for example, South Africa hosted The World Cup in 2003,  the Twenty20 World Championships in 2007. In addition, the Tri Nations rugby tournament took place in South Africa in 2009 and was a great success.

I am therefore surprised at the general scepticism at the capacity of South Africa to organise the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Yes much more football fans will come to the World Cup, but again the knowledge and knowhow is there. As a comparison, I was a volunteer during the 1998 World Cup in France, and 2 months before World Cup kicked off, Stade de France was not 100% completed, there were logistic issues, and strike threats (it can happen in France) and security was also a concern……..the medias were not raising the red flag as they do now for the World Cup in South Africa. I interviewed Gavin Cowley (adidas South Africa Marketing Director), and he is very confident and optimistic for a succesful football event: “I believe that we continue to surprise many of the doomsayers.  Our stadia are all completed; the cities are ready, revamped airports are world class.  There is no question that we will be ready to welcome the world!”

Danny Jordaan is handling a difficult task and he is doing a great job, not only at working on delivering a top class football event, but also at convincing the world that South Africa is ready to welcome local and foreign fans. With the strong involvement of FIFA, sponsors and football partners, the organising committee is set for success.

Finally, I had the pleasure to meet Danny Jordaan in 2003 in Johannesburg. He is a charismatic individual with a powerful intelligence. His humility and vision make him a unique and likeable character. He is very much aware of the heavy responsibilities he is carrying on his shoulders but  the organising committee and himself have  the strong willingness to show the world that a FIFA World Cup can be a frank success on the African Continent.

Karl Lusbec

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