World Cup bribery claims belittle work of Mandela - South African FA

The South African FA denied claims of bribery in the 2010 World Cup bidding process, saying Nelson Mandela was key to landing the event.

Allegations that bribes were offered in return for bringing the 2010 World Cup to South Africa "belittles the hard work" of former president Nelson Mandela and others involved in the process, according to the country's Football Association (SAFA).

SAFA spoke out for the first time against allegations from the United States Department of Justice that $10million was paid as a bribe to secure the most prestigious event in world football.

The claims, which have twice been denied by the South African government, are part of a wider operation that has seen the indictment of 14 people, including nine past and present FIFA officials, for racketeering conspiracy and corruption.

A New York Times report suggested that FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke was responsible for transferring the funds to CONCACAF - then led by the indicted Jack Warner.

FIFA later denied that Valcke was involved in the administration of the payment for a project that was intended to "support the African diaspora in Caribbean countries as part of the World Cup legacy".

SAFA has now categorically denied that the money was a bribe, and noted its disappointment that the work of Mandela, among others, to bring the World Cup to Africa for the first time is being undermined.

"We find it quite surprising that the dominant narrative describes the very popular African Renaissance programme's African Diaspora support project as a bribe - almost four years after the actual vote to grant South Africa these hosting rights," a SAFA statement read.

"We categorically deny that this was a bribe in return for a vote. It belittles the hard work done by Madiba [Mandela], Archbishop [Desmond] Tutu, the South African Government and numerous others who sacrificed their time and money and family lives to make our country proud! 

"It tarnishes their images in the most unscrupulous manner.

"FIFA Executive Committee Members who voted for South Africa in 2004 and who were interviewed by the media at the time all indicated that the tipping point for their support came as a direct result of Madiba's appeal to them as well as the strength of the South African bid."