From its beginning in 1930, world soccer's governing body, FIFA, has rotated the South Africa World Cup between its member football associations from continent to continent. In practice, that meant the World Cup was held mostly in Europe and Latin America.
To win a bid, a country must sign an agreement with FIFA which is tantamount to a treaty between nations.
Some critics in South Africa compare this country’s agreement with FIFA to a foreign occupation, since FIFA has extraordinary rights to fine local businesses, to restrict hawkers from selling unauthorized FIFA products, to ban the sale of beverages or other products of non-sponsoring companies within a certain radius of any World Cup stadium.
South Africa has even agreed to set up 54 special courts to handle World Cup related offenses, such as hooliganism or playing live games on TV in a public place without obtaining a special FIFA licence.
South Africa might seem to be a long distance for football fans, perched as it is on the southern tip of Africa (which explains the name of the country), but the very first World Cup was held in Uruguay, in 1930, a period in history where teams generally had to travel by ship. (Uruguay won that match, 4-2, against perennial rivals Argentina.)
Since 1930, World Cup games have been held every four years (except during World War II), in Italy, France, Brazil, Switzerland, Sweden, Chile, England, Mexico, West Germany, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Italy, USA, France, jointly in Korea and Japan, and Germany.
The next World Cup will be held in Brazil in 2014.
World Cup 101:
- World Cup 101: Why is the World Cup in South Africa?
- World Cup 101: Is South Africa really prepared to host the World Cup?
- World Cup 101: Who’s favored to win it all?
- World Cup 101: How does the tournament work?
- World Cup 101: Why is the World Cup such a big deal?