The 62 matches played since the beginning of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ have certainly lived up to expectations. Goals, action, suspense and stars have all been on show. All that remains is for either the Netherlands or Spain to be crowned world champions on Sunday.
While the eyes of the entire world have been glued to events on the pitch, FIFA’s General Coordinators have been working away in the background, ensuring games have unfolded without a hitch. Present in all ten stadiums, they have used their organisational skills to ensure that the football takes pride of place.
The tough task of overseeing the organisation of Sunday’s Final at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg will fall to FIFA General Coordinator Mustapha Fahmy. The experienced Egyptian took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with FIFA.com, sharing his thoughts on the culmination of the tournament, which will see a new name engraved on the famous Trophy.
An intricate exercise
The job of FIFA General Coordinator involves constant coordination and liaison with various key figures, such as stadium officials, representatives of the two teams involved. Even the flag bearers fall under his supervision. He is also responsible for the FIFA delegation, from an administrative and organisational point of view.
Fahmy, who is also General Secretary of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), explained his role in more detail: "Put simply, the general coordinator is responsible for the organisation of the match. His duties consist of taking care of every aspect of the encounter, such as the state of the pitch, the dressing rooms, the administrative side of things etc. On matchdays, we need to be at the venue seven hours before kick-off. We have to check that all is well in the stadium, as well as supervise flag bearer training, which in itself takes an hour and a half. Some 90 minutes prior to the start of the match, the two teams normally arrive at the stadium – that’s when we get our hands on the respective teamsheets. Subsequently, we go over the identity of the players and their strip colours and numbers with the refereeing team. Our next task is to organise the pre-match warm-ups. Then we make sure that the game begins at the correct time and that it is played in the best possible conditions.”
A unique experience
South Africa 2010 is not Fahmy’s first tournament, but that in no way lessens the joy and pride that he feels in playing a part in the Final, which will be the eighth match played in Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium.
Indeed, the discreet trouble-shooter found it hard to conceal his excitement ahead of Sunday’s big event: "It’s truly a great honour to be responsible for the smooth running of the Final, especially in a stadium of the calibre of Soccer City. I’ve worked at numerous FIFA events since 1986, but it’ll be my first time in charge of a FIFA World Cup Final. It’s a huge responsibility, even if the pre-match routine is similar to that followed in the preceding seven matches held there. But in a final, there are always different things that need to be taken into account. The biggest difference involves the Trophy handover ceremony; as far as that is concerned, everything must be perfect.”
A thrilling venue
As for the previous encounters staged at Soccer City Stadium, which one did Fahmy enjoy the most, from a football point of view? "The game between Argentina and Mexico in the Round of 16 was excellent. There were goals, Argentina put on a bit of a show, and Mexico proved that they were not to be taken lightly. It was a first-rate match. The Brazil-Côte d’Ivoire clash in the group phase was also great to watch."
Fahmy went on to give his thoughts on the two finalists, highlighting the Dutch side’s organisational qualities: "Out of the four teams that made it to the semi-finals, Spain is the only one not to have played at Soccer City. As for the Netherlands, they’re tremendously well-organised on and off the pitch. I’ve followed their progress since the beginning of the tournament – they value performance as well as results. They’ll be keen to go one step further than they did in 1978."
A stunning success
Many doubted South Africa’s ability to stage an event of the magnitude of the FIFA World Cup. But as early as 2004, the year the Rainbow Nation was handed the task of hosting the competition, Fahmy had made clear in an interview with FIFA.com how confident he was in Africa’s capacity to organise such large-scale events.
Now, just a few days from the end of the tournament, Fahmy’s opinion has not changed; as far as he is concerned, this FIFA World Cup has been hugely successful and impeccably organised.
"It’s been a great success, any way you look at it. The organising committee have managed to complete their mission despite everything that was said initially. Every match has gone ahead without any snags at all. The organisers have been a credit to the African continent in the way they have produced such a wonderful FIFA World Cup."