After months of anticipation and planning, the FIFA World Cup finally began last week in South Africa. The Cup undoubtedly presents South Africa with an opportunity to showcase its culture and hospitality to the rest of the world as billions tune in to root for their favorite teams, and countless others step foot on African soil for the first time.

Amidst the celebrations, concerts and goal scoring that will happen over the next month, however, there are some real questions about how the people of South Africa will benefit from the Cup, and about the sacrifices that many have already made.

These questions came up during a panel discussion at Busboys and Poets about the World Cup called Making it’s Mark: South Africa Hosts the 2010 World Cup. The panel featured Dave Zirin, a sportswriter and host of Edge of Sports Radio, Patrick Bond, a political economist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and Emira Woods, co-director of the Foreign Policy in Focus project at IPS. The panel was moderated by yours truly.

Many topics came up during our discussion but our analysis revolved around two key points: first, the idea that South Africa forfeited its sovereignty to FIFA the moment it was awarded the Cup. For example, South Africa has spent up to $3 billion on brand new stadiums in the past few years, including the aesthetically pleasing – and spectacularly expansive – Moses Mahdiba stadium in Durban, ironically named after the former secretary general of the Communist Party in South Africa.We discussed how the South African government succumbed to pressure from FIFA to build new stadiums when perfectly functioning stadiums were already available.

Second, we discussed the marginalization of the informal economy in South Africa, and the fact that corporate entities, and many in the ruling ANC, are working to keep the profits from the World Cup to themselves. We spoke about many other things besides, and our points were occasionally punctuated by sudden blasts from Dave’s vuvuzela, a trumpet-like instrument that will soon become familiar to all viewers of the World Cup.

Netfa Freeman took audio from the event and created a montage, using a song for the very occasion entitled SHAME ON THE GAME by Creamy Ewok Baggends, featuring aTari-Logo.

Take a listen!

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