Claudia Whups Nelson in Soccer's Celeb Showdown!

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Teutonic temptress Claudia Schiffer has trumped liberation icon Nelson Mandela in the rock-paper-scissors game that decides the hosts of soccer's World Cup. Germany, whose bid to host the 2006 event was fronted by the supermodel alongside tennis ace Boris Becker and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, on Thursday knocked out South Africa's, championed by its legendary former president, by one vote. Although Sepp Blatter, president of soccer's world governing body, FIFA, had backed South Africa's bid on the grounds that it was time to give the African continent a first opportunity to host the world's biggest sporting event, Mandela's men reckoned without the cunning of Franz Beckenbauer, legendary German playmaker and mastermind of its World Cup bid. Having artfully disposed of England's challenge on the grounds of its hooligan problem (even though his own legions give as good as they get when they clash with the Brits), Beckenbauer then worked the weaknesses in his key adversary's lineup. Although South Africa thought it had the votes necessary to push its bid over the top, Germany managed to woo four delegates from Asia by exploiting their hostility to Blatter over the distribution of voting rights between continents, and somehow managed to persuade New Zealand delegate Charles Dempsey to abstain rather than vote for South Africa as mandated by the region he represented. A tie would have given the casting vote to pro-South Africa Blatter, but Dempsey's abstention gave Germany a 12-11 advantage. Dempsey later intimated that he'd been under "unsustainable" personal pressure, and the BBC reported that he'd received death threats.

The 2002 World Cup will be jointly hosted by Korea and Japan, marking the tournament's first foray outside of either Europe or the Americas. But although South Africa is by far the most viable potential host in Africa, it failed to persuade enough FIFA delegates that it would have sufficiently tamed its rampant crime problem to make it a viable venue for the tens of thousands of foreign fans who travel to the event. In terms of infrastructure and transport Germany, naturally, had a distinct edge, while the 12-hour flying time from Europe to South Africa — and, indeed, the prohibitive distance to South Africa for fans from the soccer power centers in North and West Africa — also functioned as a deterrent. Not surprisingly, African soccer administrators are taking the result as a vote of no confidence in a continent that continues to export some of the world's finest players to wealthy European teams. Still, FIFA delegates continued to hold out the promise of 2010, although it's hard to see what might change in South Africa over the next four years to make soccer's disproportionately European powers-that-be more amenable. Given the choice, they prefer to play the game on home — or at least familiar — ground, hooligan hordes and all.