JOHANNESBURG — The shooting of an American backpacker has revived crime worries at the World Cup, but organisers insisted Thursday that the tournament remains on track on the eve of the quarter-finals.
The tourist was shot in an armed robbery late Wednesday as he was walking down a street looking for his hotel, shortly after he arrived in Johannesburg, police said.
“He went to a house, where people phoned for an ambulance,” police spokeswoman Sally de Beer said, adding that the man said he had not come to South Africa for the World Cup.
“The paramedics, who examined him found that he had a gun shot just under his right arm. He is in hospital, but he is out of danger, in a stable condition. He is recovering,” she said.
Crime has been the key concern for the World Cup since South Africa was named host six years ago. The country has one of the world’s highest violent crime rates, with an average 50 murders a day.
But so far, crimes linked to the tournament have been mostly minor, with the exception of two armed robberies against foreign journalists.
South Africa has spent 1.3 billion rands (169 million dollars, 130 million euros) on security for the 300,000 foreign fans expected at the tournament, with 44,000 new police recruited for the games.
Organisers insisted the tournament was on track for a successful finish with the final on July 11.
FIFA boss Sepp Blatter met with South African President Jacob Zuma early Thursday, and both men said they were on the whole pleased with the tournament.
“I’m a relaxed and happy president of FIFA this morning. I have to express to the population of South Africa a big, big compliment,” Blatter said.
“We think things have been going well. The excitement, everything you need in football is there,” Zuma added.
Danny Jordaan, the head of the local organising committee, invoked the legacy of Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, saying the tournament has fulfilled a dream for the nation.
“After weeks of great football, the country is bracing for an electrifying final,” Jordaan told reporters.
“This World Cup is a dream of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu who have been waiting for 16 years to see it happen,” he added.
The host team Bafana Bafana failed to clear the group stages, but South Africa has rallied around Ghana’s Black Stars for their match against Uruguay in Johannesburg on Friday.
“Africa’s Ghana love ’em” proclaimed The Star newspaper on the eve of the match, which could see the Black Stars become the first African team ever to reach the semi-finals.
“We have the prospect of Ghana going beyond the quarter-finals, a place where no African team has been,” said Jordaan.
“This is what we have always wanted to achieve in this African World Cup,” he said.