Violence Raises Fresh Concern Over Finals

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Deadly attacks on foreigners in South African townships may hurt the country's chances of hosting a successful 2010 World Cup, the South African Football Association's chief executive conceded Tuesday.

Raymond Hack said he hoped the attacks, which have killed at least 24 people, would not impact on the World Cup.

"You know, attacks like this ... are very sad for football, are very sad for the country," Hack said. "So we need to ensure that [the violence] is brought to an end as quickly as possible."

Since May 11, mobs have been attacking foreigners with knives and stones, raping women and burning shops and homes in shantytowns around Johannesburg. Thousands of African immigrants have sought shelter as a result.

The attacks on foreigners have exacerbated concerns that high levels of violent crime coupled with poor infrastructure and a dire electricity crisis could prompt Europeans and other foreigners to watch the World Cup games from home.

"[The] majority of the public here love football," Hack said.

"Football is one sport where there hasn't been any divisions irrespective of your race, religion, color or where you come from. It's a game played by the people for the people."

South Africa, the first African country to host the World Cup, is spending billions of dollars to build new stadiums and upgrade a creaky transportation system and other infrastructure.

The country attracted 8.4 million visitors last year and is aiming to have 10 million by 2010.

"We are extremely concerned about the potential impact of these attacks on 2010 but also tourism growth in general," said the chief executive of South African Tourism, Moeketsi Mosola.

World Cup organizers have dismissed persistent reports that football's world governing body FIFA is considering stripping South Africa of the tournament. FIFA officials have denied that they are considering such a move.

South Africa's government has said it is confident it will have crime under control by the time the tournament begins.

"[The violence] has no relation to 2010. I hope that long before that we will deal with it," deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad told reporters in Pretoria.