The Spectator

The murky world of football politics requires special skills which our team seems to lack, says Mihir Bose

To understand how World Cup bids are won, let me take you to the third-floor suite of Dolder Grand hotel overlooking Lake Zurich. The date is May 2004 and the cast as high-powered as you would expect in any political summit. There was Thabo Mbeki, then president of South Africa, and Nelson Mandela, his predecessor. They had come to meet Jack Warner, the Trinidadian vice-president of FIFA — the organisation which controls world football. Warner had been sympathetic to South Africa’s bid for the 2010 World Cup, but had suddenly turned cold — refusing to return any calls to Cape Town. So the South Africans had come to see him.

Mandela, of course, was South Africa’s trump card. Just what these men discussed has never been revealed, but I caught up with Warner in the corridor immediately after the meeting and he said: ‘Who knows? Anything can happen.’ Then he gave a big smile suggesting he was once again South Africa’s friend.

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