x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Hegger banking on African success

Peter Hegger, one of South Africa's most respected sports administrators, believes his country's success in staging tournaments in other sports can only bode well for when the 2010 football World Cup arrives.

CAPE TOWN // An enthusiastic observer at the South African Open golf championship which came to a thrilling conclusion on Sunday evening was Peter Hegger, one of his country's most respected sports administrators. With Cape Town looking forward to staging one of the 2010 World Cup semi-finals as well as having a decent share of matches in the group stages of the Fifa showpiece event, it seemed pertinent to ask him how preparations were coming along. My inquiries brought an enthusiastic and detailed response from the man who was formerly general manager for Western Province Cricket at the historic Newlands ground and spent several years on the South African Sports Council. "I think the World Cup will be a huge success, here in Cape Town and in the whole of South Africa," said Hegger. "I think that we have shown by hosting the Rugby World Cup, the Cricket World Cup and the World Twenty20 championships that South Africans are sports mad. "People are putting all their differences aside to make this an enormous success for our country. Various racial groups who have had difficulties getting on in the past are bonding together in the interests of the nation." Hegger is aware that he and his fellow South Africans are privileged to host a global sporting gathering that is second only to the Olympic Games. "I think we have to go through the process of proving Africa can host an event of this magnitude. And I am sure we will," he said. There has been much discussion in the Western Cape that the new stadium which will be able to seat 46,000 spectators under a retractable roof if weather conditions dictate is a waste of money and will be filled only once for the match that decides one qualifier for the World Cup final. "I don't think our new stadium will be a white elephant," said Hegger, who pointed out that next year's British and Irish Lions tour itinerary does not include a Test match in Cape Town because of the lack of capacity at neighbouring Newlands. The new facility which will have Table Mountain as a backdrop and is close to the Atlantic and Indian Opens will ensure that the area is not overlooked on future rugby tours, according to Hegger, who also believes first class cricket matches will be staged there. There have also been suggestions that the South Africans are falling behind schedule with their World Cup arrangements but Hegger offers a firm rebuttal to that argument. "From what I gather here in Cape Town, our stadium is more than 50 per cent complete and it will be handed over to the World Cup organising committee a year from now, a full six months before the tournament starts. I believe it is the same in other South African cities. "The importance of South Africa hosting a successful World Cup is enormous to the African continent. All the races will come together to make it succeed and I think it will bring more of South Africa's white population into football. "At the moment football here is a minority sport in the eyes of the white people who tend to be associated more with rugby and cricket. For the coloureds and blacks football is a majority sport. Things will change if the World Cup goes well, I'm sure of that."

wjohnson@thenational.ae