Danny Jordaan, the vice President of the South African Football Association and the man who organised the World Cup in South Africa, has decided not to travel to the Euros for fears of racial problems. Jordaan, who is also a special adviser to FIFA and has taken an active part in the ongoing discussions about the reform of FIFA, has been going to the European championship since Euro 2000. Two weeks ago he was in Budapest for the FIFA Congress and had planned to return to Europe with his family to watch the conclusions of the Euros. He had bought tickets for the semi final in Poland and the final in Ukraine for himself, his wife, and his two children. However, reports of racial problems in the two countries, highlighted in a recent BBC Panorama, has made him change his mind.
The 61 year-old Jordaan grew up under apartheid and, according to the strict racial categories operated by the regime, he was classified as “coloured”. This was because of his mixed Dutch and Khoi origins. With the regime determined to make sure races did not mix, his experience of racism was, as he once told me, always being told he was living at the wrong place and going to the wrong school.
“Under the Group Areas Act, certain areas were reserved for certain race groups. Our house was in the wrong place for coloureds, so it was bulldozed. Our school was in the wrong place, so it was bulldozed.”
Jordaan, like Steve Biko, is from the Eastern Cape, and was active in the student movement that started in 1976 after the Soweto riots, Jordaan faced personal danger when the second state of emergency was declared in 1985. “It was a very difficult time, we were all under threat. There was the real possibility of even being killed. Even as late as 1990 I had to run away from my own home town of Port Elizabeth and stay in Kimberley. The ANC said: they could kill you, just disappear. I stayed there for three weeks before it was safe to remerge.”
Talking to me last night from South Africa, he told me, “I experienced racism in my own country and when I read and saw what was happening in Poland/Ukraine I decided I did not want to subject my family to any of it. This was meant to take my family to show them a European final, but we have decided that because of the racial problems this is not something we are prepared to put up with.”