Safo Abebrese, the man for whose arrest an Accra Circuit Court issued a bench warrant last March, has said an African country can win the 2010 World Cup if Africa can marshal large numbers of fans to every game.
He attributed the failure of Africa's representatives to go beyond the quarter final stage of the tournament in 1990 and 1994 to low numbers of African fans in the stands.
Abebrese, founder and president of the Coalition of Supporters Unions of Africa (COSUA) was speaking at a press briefing organized by the Zambia Voluntary Soccer Fans Association (ZAVOSOFA) to garner members for COSUA, said in the first two World Soccer tournaments of the nineties, European teams playing against Cameroon, 1990, and Nigeria, 1994, and who had more fans in the stadia were awarded soft penalties in the last 10 minutes of the game in each case, to boost their chances of winning.
England beat Cameroon 2 – 1 in 1990. Both goals, he recalled, resulted from penalty kicks. He said it has taken FIFA more than 70 years to allow an African country to host the World Cup. If SA fails the world by not bringing fans to the stadia, “Africa may not host another world cup in our lifetime”, especially since the rotational hosting regime is to be changed.
He said if African fans unite behind one African team each time they played opponents from any other continent, “we will outnumber opposing teams' fans, we will show FIFA that we can organize and fill stadiums and we can win the cup”
Abebrese said “we want to mobilize 2,000 fans from 53 African countries to provide unified support to all six teams that will represent Africa”. He said sports, and soccer in particular is “the best and fastest way to achieve unity, which has eluded Africa since the founding of the OAU, but it has been ignored by our leaders as a vehicle for unity. Football can give us that unity that has eluded us.”
He said members of COSUA would be required to pay a $20 registration fee and membership subscription fee for a year, allowing them benefits and privileges such as acquiring loans from a South African financial institution.
He said the sponsors of the world soccer event would prefer tens of thousands of fans to watch the semi-final clashes to having just a few hundreds or thousands. The referees know this and they have to help the side with more fans to win. He said in 1990, Cameroon had 800 fans as compared to England's 24,000 while Nigeria in 1994 had 1000 fans against Italy's 31,000. When South Korea advanced to the semi-finals in 2002, they had 45,000 Korean fans in the stadium.
Sarfo Aberbrese who is on a tour of Southern Africa, arrived in Lusaka last Tuesday, said COSUA's intention of mobilizing 106,000 fans for South Africa 2010 is based on its belief that soccer is the most useful vehicle of fostering African unity.