Despite scolding, politics finds its way into World Cup kickoff
The official opening of the World Cup soccer tournament was overshadowed by protests outside the official World Cup site in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Organizers scrambled to relocate and remove tents and police officers after protesters set fire to tents erected for this week’s opening ceremony.
Protesters say the stadium, which is due to host soccer and other matches of the tournament, is “a symbol of repression,” and they want it removed from the city. They also want the World Cup scheduled to begin there to be postponed.
The World Cup was also postponed earlier this year because of the protests and is currently set for June 12.
“I will be back here on Monday,” South African police Deputy Commissioner Fana Madushiba told The Associated Press at the stadium site in Johannesburg.
An organizer for the event, Nelson Mandela Foundation executive director and former president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki, said he was not surprised by the protests.
“If you have a political motivation like this, you’re not going to have a good World Cup,” he said.
The main protest was a few hundred people, but several thousand people, according to the World Cup’s spokesman, were outside the stadium and about 100,000 people were estimated to have watched on TV.
Most of the demonstrations were peaceful, but police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators throwing rocks and other debris. Several protesters were arrested, but no injuries were reported.
World Cup matches are expected to begin at about 9 a.m. local time, but the South African Football Association said there was no plan for a midnight or later kickoff, as planned.
Many African countries are boycotting the World Cup because of human rights concerns over the competition being held in a country that has been subject to frequent repression over the last several decades. South Africa is considering its response to the protests in light of the fact that