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78
Feature
PowerList 2010
this time i will
get off the plane
27 years ago, Garth Crooks flew to Jo’burg, but refused to leave the aircraft
because the apartheid regime wanted him for a Pr stunt. in June he’ll be
going back for the first time since then … for the first African world Cup
swore i would never visit south Africa until the 1977 in June 2010 i will be making my way to Johannesburg for the
i
Gleneagles Agreement, which severed links between south first time since that incident. south Africa will be my fifth world
Africa and the sporting community, had expired. so i couldn’t Cup as a BBC reporter and no previous tournament has filled me
understand what i was doing on an aircraft on the tarmac in with such excitement and anticipation.
Johannesburg when i should have been in neighbouring it is the first time the Confederation of African Football has been
swaziland. the international footballers packed on board the plane granted the Fifa world Cup and the implications for the African
looked somewhat puzzled when we were asked to disembark and continent are immense. From the moment in May 2004 when
go into the airport lounge of a country that was in the grips of south Africa won the bid to host the 2010 finals, the question the
apartheid. international football community has been asking is: “Can they do
it was 1983. Liverpool had won the First Division Championship this?” the perception of Africa from most westerners i have come
again, while tottenham, my team at the time, had nothing to show into contact with is that the continent is a homogenous group
for their efforts. Having won the FA Cup in 1981 and 1982 they governed by despots and corrupt politicians.
had failed to win the trophy for an unprecedented third year. that even those who have visited south Africa tend to base their
summer Liverpool and spurs had been invited to play an exhibition entire experience around safaris, never feeling the need to
match in swaziland. But the plane transporting the teams had understand the country’s culture, history or lifestyles. Kruger
instead landed at Johannesburg’s Jan smuts international Airport. National Park is no doubt one of nature’s most exhilarating tourist
with growing confusion, it became apparent that a deal had attractions, but it represents only a tiny part of what the country
been hatched between Prime Minister Pw Botha’s south African
government and the game’s organisers. Both teams were expected
to disembark and conduct an impromptu press conference to
promote the reunification of south Africa with the international
sporting community.
i was furious because this publicity stunt was full of political
implications and i demanded to speak to my manager and my
coach. Meanwhile, i explained to colleagues what the organisers
were asking us to do and made clear to the Liverpool players the
implications of going ahead with the proposal.
i asked my manager a direct question: “Are you prepared to
subject Chris Hughton, Danny thomas [the other black spurs
players] and me to this farce?” Just then tony Galvin, spurs’
industrious midfielder, stood up and, in a blunt Yorkshire accent,
gave the most impassioned speech i have ever heard as to why we,
as sportsmen and ambassadors of the United Kingdom, could not
and should not go against the Gleneagles Agreement.
the three of us, along with Galvin, decided we would not leave
the aeroplane. this dramatically changed the ambivalence of the
travelling party. the south African officials, realising they now had
an international incident brewing, had no choice but to allow the
plane to refuel and continue on to swaziland. South African players celebrate a goal at the Confederations Cup
PowerList10_IS02_P078-079.indd 1 07/09/2009 11:54
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