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South Africa World Cup: All soccer players will have armed escort, 44000 military police.

South African soldier (SANDF) soldier lies injured after clash with southafrican police in august 2009 (Photo: Phil Magakoe, Pretoria News)

South African soldier (SANDF) soldier lies injured after clash with southafrican police in august 2009 (Photo: Phil Magakoe, Pretoria News)

Agreement between FIFA and Interpol will provide armed escort to the selections . President Joseph Blatter pledged last Friday not to fear for the safety of delegations from 32 nations participating in the World Cup in South Africa and rely fully on the country’s preparations to host the event.  What is the reason for such certainty of  FIFA´s President?

After closing an agreement with Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization), the governing body of world football (FIFA)  has shown that there is a southafrican plan of action drawn to ensure total security of the delegations, within which is provided armed escort to the 32 participating teams, from the airports to the hotels and from hotels to stadiums and training centers, and viceversa.

“We have zero tolerance on crime,” warned Bheki Cele, a representative of the national police of South Africa, after meeting with representatives from FIFA and 29 of the 32 nations participating in the World Cup this weekend in Zurich, Switzerland.

The total cost of security actions will be of  US$ 313 million and include the presence of 44 thousand military police in South Africa, which is about 30% of the total effective police of the country.

Besides the military police escort for each delegation, southafrican police  is also in action to advise tourists to consume alcoholic beverages only in bars or fan fests (meeting point of fans), as drinking in the street is considered a crime by the laws of South Africa.

Police arrest an SANDF member during a protest in Pretoria in August 2009. Photo Phil Magakoe, Pretoria News

Police arrest an SANDF member during a protest in Pretoria in August 2009. Photo Phil Magakoe, Pretoria News

There is a certain risk for a new clash between military and police in South Africa. Last august,  nearly 3 000 southafrican soldiers from the South African defence force clashed with the police on the streets of Pretoria during demonstrations over pay and poor service conditions within the military. After the clashes, the military received a timely salary increase (30%) which was considered as a “moral booster not only for the military but also for football fans who will be streaming to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup.”

According to african media, this move tried to stopp  any planned strikes ahead of the world cup as the services of the totality of the South African armed forces may be required to secure football fans, players and prevent crime.

By military escorting the delegations, the southafrican police wants to avoid what did happened with the delegation of Togo during the African Cup 2010, where Togo´s delegation suffered a 30-minute machine-gun attack when they crossed from Congo into Angola, and subsequently the bus driver and two Togo officers were assasinated by rebels.  As a consequence of this action, Togo claimed for more security measures but the African Soccer Federation banned the country from two Nations Cups after Togo withdrew from the 2010 tournament following the death of these two members of the delegation. The separatist group the Front for the Liberation of Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) claimed responsibility for the attack, which happened two days before the start of the African Nations Cup and five months before the World Cup finals in South Africa. Three Togo people were killed and eigth were wounded, including two players, after the bus came under attack as it entered the Angolan enclave of Cabinda.

Another example of violence happened with the delegation of Benin who played in the 2005 Africa Youth soccer championships after their goalkeeper had been assassinated in the middle of the competition.

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