It started with an apple. But this has nothing to do with Adam and Eve. This is all about pettiness on the sort of scale that gives officials and authorities – in this case sports authorities – a bad name or, considering the core of the issue (so to speak), a rotten name.
I was not allowed to bring an apple, a cheese roll, some peanuts and a chocolate bar into the media centre of the Loftus Vervseld stadium ahead of the Paraguay-Japan game the other day. But why not?
With catering standards poor and prices in all media centres a total rip-off – official dry cheese role retailing at R30 (£2.62) – it has made sense throughout the tournament to nip into a supermarket or make your own snack rather than pay inflated prices.
FIFA has strict rules about commercial rivalry to official products but not when those products are totally different. The funniest part about this is that the general standard of security checks on just about anyone entering the World Cup stadia over the past three weeks has been totally haphazard to the point of laughable.
One day, off you go trotting through with a wave and a smile from security staff, no problem. Next day, same items, different venue, thorough search and occasional confiscation. Stressful or what?
Seeking to bring a small packed lunch (for personal consumption only) into Loftus for some reason was a big deal, presumably a major safety issue, for the staff of a company named Fidelity Security. Norah Swart, the lady in question, wasn’t smiling or bothered by manners in ordering: “You can’t bring that in. It’s not allowed.”
She asked me to ditch said items in a nearby bin. I refused. She could not explain the reason for her intransigence but supervisor Jacobus Swart said they were just “obeying orders.” Aren't they always?
Incidentally, this was the same stadium where many journalists were left no option but to sit on the floor to write since there were not enough facilities. Norah would have been better employed ordering up some extra chairs and tables.
There is a serious point to the above: all the goodwill earned by the enormous amount of work put in by FIFA and local staff risks getting lost amid an increasing number of such unnecessary incidents. It’s always the few who spoil it for the many.