In gearing up for the largest soccer event, the World Cup, people claim to be gearing up with over 1 billion condoms as well 40,000 prostitutes expected to come to South Africa to “earn” some money.
The taxi drivers hustling around the bars on Long Street in Cape Town say they are ready for all the soccer fans that will flood the city in June for the World Cup. So are hotels, restaurants, breweries and, inevitably, prostitutes.
Arguably, the soccer World Cup is to the sex industry what the holiday season is to candy shops. A temporary surge of excited people feeling collectively festive, willing to pay for a bit of extra indulgence.
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.
Henry Africa, 49, drives a taxi in Cape Town and, aside from the usual airport pickups and winery tours, he also operates the “Bright Red Tour,” which he expects to be a hit among soccer fans. For the equivalent of 500 dollars, he’ll shuttle customers from strip bar to strip bar all night and even bring them over to a safe-sex practicing prostitute, a relevant selling point in a country where one in five adults are estimated to be HIV positive.
Over the years as a cabbie, he says he has seen it all: men hoping to try sex with someone HIV-positive, men getting drugged, beat up and robbed because they thought they could find what they needed on their own.
“If they don’t know where to go, they can end up in trouble,” said Africa. “What people pay for is safety.”
Safety has remained the main keyword here, a month before kick off. Hosting the prestigious world soccer tournament is the country’s first post-apartheid chance to be in the global spotlight for news other than that associated with South Africa of the last two decades: out-of-control crime, an immense gap between the rich and the poor, racial tensions, staggering AIDS rates and presidential eccentricities. It is South Africa’s chance to finally shed its infamous label of an unsafe tourist destination, a tag so despised by locals.
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Apparently soccer fans love the game and some good old fashioned debauchery.