This is the fourth in a series of examinations of soccer/football-related legends and whether they are true or false.
SOCCER/FOOTBALL LEGEND: 40,000 prostitutes enter the country hosting the FIFA World Cup.
Let me know if this sounds familiar to you. A country is worried about “the invasion of ‘sex-workers,’ who are expected to flood the country next year to cater for male soccer fans” while “The event’s organisers are expecting at least 40,000 prostitutes to descend” on the country to meet demand.
If you said that that sounds like discussions surrounding this year’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa, you would basically be correct. Those quotes generally do describe the mood in South Africa regarding the influx of prostitutes via trafficking rings (to get such large numbers of incoming prostitutes, trafficking rings involving forced prostitution would have to be involved). However, those quotes are actually from five years ago, in an article by Tony Paterson for The Independent in reference to how Germany was going to handle the “invasion” of prostitutes to the 2006 FIFA World Cup that was held in Germany.
But if you look at an article last month written by Iva Skoch for the Global Post, “South Africa’s Drug Central Authority estimates 40,000 sex workers will trickle in for the event from as far as Russia, the Congo and Nigeria to cater to the wide taste spectrum of some 400,000, mostly male, visitors and their apres-soccer needs,” it cannot be a coincidence that the same exact numbers mentioned for Germany in 2006 are being mentioned in 2010 in South Africa.
What’s interesting is that we can actually more or less pinpoint where the “40,000″ figure came from in 2005. In Autumn of 2005, the first major public discussions took place about the sex trade in connection to the World Cup, and the German Womens’ Council made a statement that there would be “more than 30,000″ sex workers coming into Germany for the World Cup. As German authorities were in the midst of debunking even this claim, the “more than 30,000″ turned to “up to 40,000″ in the German newspaper taz before becoming “40,000″ in the German magazine Emma. It was this last figure that was picked up by the international media (and international organizations like the American Coalition Against Trafficking in Women) and soon there was a good deal of hype in Germany over the 40,000 figure.
The hype was so great that the German government, who were sure that the 40,000 estimate was grossly out of sync with reality, were pressured to spent millions of Euros in a quest to ferret out such cases of forced prostitution (voluntary prostitution is legal in Germany). Ultimately, when the Council of the European Union prepared a study in 2007, they discovered about 100 instances of people trafficked into Germany in 2006, only five of which were connected to the World Cup! In addition, the brothels of Germany did not even report heavy increases in sales, as it appeared that the demographics of the World Cup actually steered more towards families visiting the games, not single men.
It seems as though the 40,000 figure from Germany was just transposed on to South Africa, which actually breaks a pattern, of sorts, that Brendan O’Neill of Spiked noted back in March of this year. The rumors of importing sex workers for major sporting events is nothing new – the rumors were 10,000 sex workers being smuggled into Australia for the 2000 Olympic Games, then 20,000 sex workers being smuggled into Greece for the 2004 Olympic Games and then 40,000 for the 2006 World Cup. As O’Neill jokes, making up a rumor of 40,000 imported sex workers for the 2010 World Cup is practically a sign of great restraint considering the doubling that took place in the events before!
In the case of South Africa, once again we can pretty much pinpoint where the silliness got started. Look back at the earlier article I quoted by Iva Skoch. Note how she cites “South Africa’s Drug Central Authority?” Most articles on the topic do the same thing, cite the Drug Central Authority. Well, in an earlier article by the Telegraph, the head of South Africa’s Drug Central Authority, David Bayever, is quoted as saying “We’ve been told by event organisers that they are aware of about 40,000 new prostitutes being recruited to come into the country for the World Cup.” You see? It goes from Bayever saying that he was told by people that there were going to be 40,000 prostitutes coming into South Africa to it then being Bayever who is saying it. This twisted form of the “telephone game” is how a number that was basically pulled from thin air ends up being attributed to the South African government and proliferated throughout the international media.
How off is the 40,000 figure? As Les Carpenter recently reported for Yahoo Sports, the South African government is basically laughing at these figures. They have not seen any substantial rises in the number of prostitutes in South Africa nor of any trafficking rings. There has been some rise in prostitution, of course, no one is suggesting that major month-long events like the World Cup attract no increase in prostitution needs, just nothing remotely close to the figures bandied about. In fact, some of the increase is actually a result of the reports, as the word spreads that there is the need for prostitutes in South Africa so some prostitutes from neighboring countries make the trek hoping to make a lot of money. But these prostitutes will likely find the pickings relatively slim. Heck, even in the article by Skoch, a prostitute interviewed who did come to South Africa is quoted as saying “Work has been slow” (granted, that was before the Cup began)!
The real shame is that there are some serious issues at play here in South Africa regarding prostitution, particularly the heavy rate of HIV infection among sex workers (the HIV rate is bad among the general population – among the sex worker population it is quite depressing). And yet those issues are being almost minimized over the hysteria caused by the make-believe statistics designed more for easy headlines than for anything else. Although, in the case of South Africa, at least, the hysteria did lead to the donation of millions of condoms, so something good came out of the invented statistics!
Thanks to all the journalists I cited above, and special thanks to the International Organization for Migration, who did a great study on the 2006 World Cup, in particular interest to me was a section on the evolution of the “40,000″ figure.
Also, in a foolish omission on my part, I left out Laura Agustin, an immigration expert who has served as the source for a number of articles on the above topic.
Here are some other articles by Agustin on the subject from her website: a story on the sex-football connection, one about African sex workers going to South Africa and a 2010 World cup piece she did. Thanks, Laura!
SOCCER/FOOTBALL LEGEND: A US player played for Puerto Rico in 2008 international play.
Taylor Graham currently plays for the Seattle Sounders in the American professional soccer league, Major League Soccer.
Graham was born in California in 1980.
In 2008, he was approached with an intriguing offer – due to a sort of loophole in the rules for making up international rosters, Puerto Rico, as an independent territory of the United States, still qualified in a way as part of the United States. So if a citizen of the United States chose to play for Puerto Rico, they could, even if they had no other connection to the country.
Graham was approached because he was a very good player who was likely just not good enough to be recruited for the actual United States international team, but he would be one of the top players for a Puerto Rican national team – a national team that had not won a game in international play in over a decade!
After a lot of soul-searching (he did not wish to be viewed as anti-American) and checking with his Sounders coach, Graham agreed and went to Puerto Rico to train for the exhibition matches that would be on the way to the qualifying rounds for the 2010 World Cup.
And sure enough, Graham’s addition to the team was helpful. In March of 2008, in a friendly against Bermuda, Puerto Rico gained their first international victory since 1994! And guess who scored the first goal? You guessed it – Graham!
After a few more surprisingly competitive games, the North American Soccer Federation stepped in and “clarified” their eligibility rules – now you would have had to have lived in Puerto Rico for two years or be of Puerto Rican descent to be able to play for Puerto Rico, so Graham was no longer eligible to play for the team, so his strange journey as a Puerto Rican soccer player came to an end shortly after it began.
At least due to the decision, Graham’s earlier renunciation of his rights to play for the US was also disallowed. So while he’ll probably be too old to make the the 2014 US national team, he’s at least eligible!
SOCCER/FOOTBALL LEGEND: A player got a yellow card for faking an injury – however, the player was DEAD!
Something that football often gets criticized for is the way that players attempt to draw fouls on each other by acting as though simple contact (that happens as a matter-of-fact in a game of football) was egregious contact. You know, someone bumps a player and the said player goes flying as if he were just hit by a truck.
The common term for it is “flopping” and while it is a problem in the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, it is most associated with the world of association football.
It is seen as such a problem that they even came up with rules against it.
Soccer uses a “yellow card” system, where every time an egregious rule violation takes place the referee gives the player a “yellow card.”
If you get two yellow cards, you are then given a red card and you are ejected from the game and your team must play with one less player (in other words, unlike a basketball player who has been ejected from the game, you cannot substitute a replacement for the ejected player).
Here’s England star player Wayne Rooney getting a yellow card…
Here are the things you can give a yellow card for…
1. Unsporting behaviour
2. Dissent by word or action
3. Persistently infringing the laws of the game
4. Delaying the restart of play
5. Failing to respect the required distance of a corner kick or free kick
6. Entering or re-entering the field of play without the referee’s permission
7. Deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission
“Flopping” is specifically codified under rule 1. However, it’s one thing to SAY that you’re going to punish people for flopping and it’s a whole other thing to actually CALL it, as it can often be quite difficult to determine whether a player legitimately fell or is just pretending to be hurt, so frequently the refs hold back the yellow card.
That uncertainty was at play in May of 2010 in a fifth division match between Eastern European club Mladost FC and their local rival team, Hrvatski Sokol.
Before the game, the referees specifically warned the players that they would be calling penalties on what they deemed as play-acting.
Near the end of the first half, Mladost defender Goran Tunjic (32 years old) collapsed to the ground.
With no obvious foul, the referee quickly hit him with a yellow card for flopping (or “diving,” as some people call it).
However, the ref soon realized his error, as you see, Tunjic was DEAD!
He had suffered a massive heart attack during the game and when he collapsed, it was due to that attack and that he died right there on the pitch.
Club officials tried to revive him, but it was too late.
Pretty darn awful.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org