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Germany will host 2006 World Cup

FIFA voters ignore call to give the event to African country

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ZURICH, Switzerland — Germany will stage the 2006 World Cup, edging South Africa in a close vote Thursday by FIFA members who ignored their president's call to give it to an African nation for the first time.

In the final round of voting, Germany received 12 votes and South Africa 11, with one abstention.

England and Morocco were eliminated in the first two rounds.

The dramatic vote at the end of a four-year campaign by all the bidding countries came after the two leading candidates went into the third round tied 11-11.

That meant that the two members who had voted for England in round two had to decide between South Africa and Germany, which last held the World Cup as West Germany in 1974. But New Zealand's Charles Dempsey decided to abstain.

If Dempsey had voted for South Africa to make it 12-12, the deciding vote would have gone to FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the Germans probably would have lost. Dempsey's decision to abstain was a shock for the South Africans.

"He had promised us that, if England were eliminated before the final round, his vote would come to South Africa," Emmanuel Maradas, a member of the South African bidding team, said.

The decision also means that Europe gets the World Cup for the 10th time and Africa is still waiting for its first. Europe last had the World Cup in France two years ago.

The Germans, who said they already had the infrastructure and soccer tradition, get the 2006 championship at a time when their national team is in disarray after being eliminated in the first round at Euro 2000. Yet Germany is a three-time World Cup winner and has won the European title three times.

"I'm surprised," said Franz Beckenbauer, head of the German bid. "I'm not prepared for this because you can't be prepared for this. It was a very close result. We'd hoped for this but we couldn't expect it.

"We are very, very happy," said Beckenbauer, adding that the bid had "a little luck."

South African President Thabo Mbeki called it a "tragic day for Africa."

Blatter didn't appear upset that his call for an African World Cup had not been heeded.

"The South Africans did great work," he said. "Maybe it was not the right time yet to give Africa the World Cup. The executive committee is big enough and has strong enough personalities. Each knows which is the right decision to take."

South African campaigned that it was Africa's turn and it had a far better bid than Morocco, which currently has only three stadiums that satisfied FIFA requirements. South Africa had nine stadiums already built, including FNB in Johannesburg, which is being increased to 110,000.

The South Africans also had the support of Blatter, who had said that the 2006 championship should go to Africa. Thursday's decision appears to be a major blow to the president's policy.

He had argued that the World Cup should be hosted on a rotating basis with each of the confederations taking a turn. After Europe had France '98 and Asia will stage 2002, co-hosted by South Korea and Japan, Blatter argued that Africa should get 2006 with possibly South America in 2010.

The South Africans also made a deal with Brazil — persuading the South Americans to withdraw their bid only three days before the vote in return for the African delegates supporting Brazil's candidacy in 2010. They figured that guaranteed them the votes of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. The Germans doubted that.

England's cause was severely damaged by the violence of English hooligans in Brussels and Charleroi last month at Euro 2000.

Its bidding team also was dismayed to hear that FIFA's inspection team rated its facilities behind those of Germany and South Africa, even though England already has 11 40,000-capacity stadiums with four more, including a new 90,000-seat Wembley stadium, to be built whatever the result of the bid.