World Cup bid: Shine like a big, big star
“Shine like a big, big star!” This quote may sound like an odd introduction to an article about Australia’s bid for the FIFA World Cup in 2018 or 2022, but it is also the basis for one of the inspirational highlights of the bid team’s work in Cape Town two weeks ago.
All bidding nations were invited to Cape Town by FIFA to participate in a media expo to present our claims. The media expo was the first of only three formal presentations for bidders to the FIFA Executive, the international football community and international football media. While it was the ‘set piece’ event for bidding nations during the week, Football Federation Australia (FFA) also planned other activities to ensure we were noticed in a very busy period for world football.
The inspiration came from a visit to a township school outside Cape Town by Federal Minister for Sport Kate Ellis, FFA Chairman Frank Lowy, CEO Ben Buckley, Head Coach Pim Verbeek, and the eight Aussie kids who had won a competition to be Bid emissaries for the week.
The purpose of the visit was to present 1700 ‘lap desks’, as well as ‘Come Play!’ footballs and other resources. Lap desks are a portable writing surface which students can use in the classroom or at home to do their school work, and were provided to the school community as part of an AusAID project focussing on practical measures to help children with their education.
As well as the students, the most inspirational aspect of the visit was their teacher. He said that many of the children come from disadvantaged family situations, with little history of access to education, and generational poverty. He wanted them to know their value as individuals and how education can help them achieve their potential, and he continuously reinforced this message by leading them in a motivational chant which ended with “Shine like a big, big star!”
Along with the eight Aussie kids, Frank Lowy and Ben Buckley also visited Tygerberg Children’s Hospital outside of Cape Town, where Mr Lowy handed over a donation of 1 million South African Rand (approximately A$150,000) for the hospital’s school to Tygerberg’s patron, Archbishop Desmond Tutu - Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and one of the most recognised and admired people of our time. The ‘Arch’ (as he invites people to call him) was also presented with a one-off ‘Come Play!’ football shirt signed by the Qantas Socceroos.
The hospital was another great reminder of what so many of us take for granted: good health and outstanding medical facilities. The children at the hospital school include many long time residents of the hospital with chronic health conditions that require daily (if not hourly or constant) care. FFA’s donation to the hospital school will assist in purchasing equipment and facilities, and we look forward to returning for another visit in June 2010.
The Australian High Commission hosted a cocktail reception at which FFA launched the new Bid promotional film and book. The film, which is narrated by Nicole Kidman, promises FIFA a “World Cup to be proud of”. (You can read the book online at www.australia2018-2022.com.au)
The reception was attended by six members of the FIFA Executive Committee (that’s 25% of the voters who decided on the 2018-2022 FIFA World Cup):
football great Franz Beckenbauer (Germany), Asian Football Confederation President Mohammed Bin Hammam, Oceania Football Confederation President Reynald Temarii, Geoff Thompson (England), Angel Villar Llona (Spain) and Jack Warner (Trinidad and Tobago).
Many people have asked “Why Nicole Kidman?” but that’s easy.
Nicole is one of the best known Australians in the world and is instantly recognisable on every continent on earth. She looks and sounds sensational in the film. FFA’s objective is for the bid to be noticed throughout the world – not just at home – and Nicole tells our story in a compelling manner and one which many people find emotional and inspiring.
The film was also viewed for the first time internationally at the FIFA media expo a few days later and we have been very encouraged by the positive reaction to it.
It was certainly one of the most talked about features of the media expo.
The other was our eight very own ‘big, big stars’ who, with the international media focussed on David Beckham’s arrival at the media expo, made their way through the media pack to distribute ‘Come Play!’ promotional material to Becks. To his credit – and ever the professional – Beckham allowed the kids to have their moment with him.
After a week of highlights – including, of course, the Draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in which Australia was grouped with Germany, Ghana and Serbia – we arrived home to media reports about the alleged impact of a FIFA World Cup in Australia on the other sporting codes.
The juxtaposition of the AFL’s public disquiet with the previous week’s activities was interesting; and there was a fair bit of hyperbole around about this matter which Ben Buckley dealt with effectively. The facts are these.
We have met with the AFL, the NRL and the ARU on at least three occasions each in the past year to brief them on these matters.
To the extent that there is not yet a ‘solution’, it’s because the stadiums that will be included in the bid proposal have not yet been finalised by governments – and, importantly, they do not have to be at this time.
It is also not clear what FIFA’s requirements are around other sporting competitions continuing during a FIFA World Cup. The only precedent suggests that other domestic league competitions can continue.
We have provided a paper to each sport which outlines some possible options depending on the final stadium mix.
Ultimately, the other sports will determine the best option for their competitions but as Ben made clear, FFA intends to continue to work with the AFL, NRL and ARU and governments to submit the best bid possible which also takes account of the other competitions.
There has also been some speculation that these media reports have damaged our bid but we do not believe this is the case. All bidding nations have their own set of issues to deal with, and we believe Australia’s multi-sport environment is a positive for Australia’s bid. We are also talking about an event which we hope will happen in 9 or 13 years time, so these issues do not need to be settled this week.
The next step in the Bid process is to submit the formal bid proposal, known as the ‘Bid Book’ in May 2010. The Bid Book provides comprehensive detail of our bid including host cities, football development, environmental considerations, stadiums, team and other accommodation, transport options, the health system and other matters.
In the meantime, all of us at FFA are buoyed by the cut-through we’re getting in the international football community and the encouraging comments from FIFA Executive members such as Franz Beckenbauer, Jack Warner and Marios Lefkaritis from Cyprus.
There’s just under one year to go to the final decision and we invite everyone to join the bid at www.australia2018-2022.com.au to show FIFA just how much Australia – just like the children in South Africa - can ‘shine like a big, big star’.
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