Maradona dismisses security issues
Argentine coach Diego Maradona dismissed security concerns about this year's World Cup on Monday as he toured the elite South African sports campus where his team will live and train during the tournament.
South Africa's high crime rate has sparked worries about security for players and fans since it won the right to become the first African nation to host football's premier event.
With the tournament just months away, new questions were raised about South Africa's ability to cope with any terrorist attack after Angolan separatists ambushed the Togo team bus as it travelled to the African Cup of Nations tournament in Angola this month.
Maradona was not expected to address reporters during his visit after coming off a two-month suspension by FIFA for a profanity-laden rant. But he relented with a few words about security and his hope Argentina will win its first World Cup since 1986.
"We want to break the curse after 24 years," Maradona said. "The desire never goes away. The hope never goes."
Relaxed and friendly, he also signed autographs for student players and others at the sports campus and kicked a ball around.
Asked about security as he toured the sports campus, Maradona told reporters: "We don't have anything to complain about."
Tournament organizers and South African government officials say they are taking extraordinary measures to fight crime during the World Cup, including recruiting more than 140,000 new police.
Not like Angola
South Africans have bristled at comparisons to Angola — South Africa has no separatist fighters and its peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy contrasts with decades of anti-colonial fighting followed by civil war in Angola.
South African security officials nonetheless say they have trained and prepared for the possibility of an international terrorist attack during the World Cup.
Toby Sutcliffe, chief executive officer of the University of Pretoria's High Performance Centre, said it was spending about $277,260 Cdn to upgrade fencing, hire more guards and take other steps to improve security for the Argentine team.
The centre, which includes a four-star hotel as well as sports fields and clinics, is also installing plasma television sets and whirlpool baths at the request of the team, Sutcliffe said. He did not say how much Argentina was paying to take over the facility during the June-July tournament.
Argentina will face South Korea, Nigeria and Greece in World Cup Group B.