In the opening lines of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Official Programme, FIFA president, Sepp Blatter makes bold promises:
“(t)he FIFA World Cup™ will leave a lasting legacy throughout Africa. Our priority is the continued fight against poverty, illiteracy and health-care problems”.
It is in the aftermath of the World Cup that South Africans are glancing back on the promises that were made by FIFA, and are assessing the fruit that these promises have borne. Indeed, as we come to terms with the immensity of this event that was held on home ground, and begin to grasp the implications of our new-found national pride, the dust is settling; and I cannot help but feel part anger, part disappointment as the idealist in me is forced to step aside and I realise that Fifa has not fully delivered in the way that it promised South Africa it would.
It was during my work experience as a World Cup VIP hostess that I first became somewhat disillusioned with Blatter’s social commitments. Despite my great work experience and the excitement I felt at being part of such an historic event, I was shocked when, at the end of my first shift, the kitchen staff began wheeling off crate-loads of food into the elevators to be dumped at wastage points. After I asked why the food was being wasted, a member of the kitchen staff (who wishes to remain anonymous) explained that, due to FIFA regulations, all left-over food had to be thrown away. Gourmet meals, sealed packets of biltong (dried meat), nuts and exotic breads and pastries were being discarded in large quantities, and not even we were allowed to take any of it home. When one considers that crate-loads of food was being tossed at every level of each stadium in each World Cup city on all consecutive match day, the scale of the waste becomes clear.
I must admit, it seems a little hypocritical to waste such great food- a lot of it untouched- in a country that suffers from a pandemic of poverty-related diseases and social ills. Despite my recognising the potential health risks and administrative costs of donating the left over food from such an event, I can’t help but wonder whether such risks would have been that difficult to bypass. Surely for a company as financially loaded as Fifa, it would have been relatively easy to work around such issues? Would it not have been do-able to have charities sign contracts recognising any health risks; and to simply have the food collected by the charities themselves at the stadia? Am I wrong? Is that an unreasonable request for an organisation boasting such fruitful profits and such exemplary social responsibility?
I certainly have never expected FIFA or other organisations like it to be the ones to solve our socio-economic issues- our global economy is far too capitalistic, far too complicated for that to be the case. However, I am tired of artificial charity; I’m tired of my own blind eye. Surely now that the football fever has passed, we will be able to see that it is our responsibility to begin thinking about others in a fundamental, every-day kind of way; in a way that does not necessarily go noticed all the time; in a way that does not shout from the rooftops. We need to urge our employers to be serious about corporate social responsibility or to leave it be completely, because poverty is still South Africa’s biggest concern and the root of so many of its issues- crime, illiteracy, high death rates, etc. It’s easy to stick our heads in the sand; but I challenge you to feel it, because, even in the aftermath of the 2010 World Cup, South Africa’s poverty is still here.