A few weeks back there was a minor kerfuffle around the soccersphere when CBS posted a report that a website called "Longing to Paradise" had posted a statement from a North African al Queda affiliate about BLOWING UP THE STADIUM during the USA - England match.
"How amazing could the match United States vs. Britain be when broadcasted live on air at a stadium packed with spectators when the sound of an explosion rumbles through the stands, the whole stadium is turned upside down and the number of dead bodies are in their dozens and hundreds, Allah willing"
It wasn't really a threat, or even the hint of a threat, just your garden-variety carnage-loving terror freaks daydreaming out loud.
They went on to address FIFA directly:
"All the security checks and X-ray machines that America will be sending after reading this article would not be capable of detecting how those explosives made it into the stadium and that for a simple reason that we will be announcing in due course.
So are your preparations for this event up to scratch, Mr. Platter?(sic)
Unfortunately, FIFA Grand Poobah in waiting - both Mr. Platter and his predecessor Joao Havelange came from the same job he currently holds - Jerome Valke (last seen serving as Charlize Therons' footstool at the World Cup draw) offered up some quotes on the subject, which gave the story much longer legs than it would have otherwise enjoyed, but the whole thing was soon forgotten.
In any case, anyone who's been in a decent bar fight (as opposed to the purse swinging conducted nightly in your average college bar) can tell you, it's not the guys shooting off their mouths you need to worry about.
Yesterday we got a reminder that there really are some nasty guys out there with the capacity and the skills and the burning desire to actually take a swing at something like an al Queda attack on the England - USA match.
The gentleman above, one Abdullah Azam Saleh al-Qahtani, who is described as a "Saudi Army Officer" and has apparently been murdering people in Iraq on a regular basis since 2004, was ARRESTED IN BAGHDAD for being involved in a plot to attack the game, according to an Iraqi Security Spokesman:
"He participated in the planning of a terrorist act in South Africa during the World Cup. He was in contact with the terrorist Ayman al-Zawahiri to organize the plan hatched by al-Qaida"
Some reports say that he was picked up two weeks ago, others that he was grabbed just yesterday, but it doesn't matter much either way. This is a serious bad guy with serious bad guy friends who are fully capable of planning and executing serious bad guy stuff.
Coincidentally, at the very same time that the Iraqis were making this announcement, the South African government was conducting a parade in downtown Johannesburg intended to show just how serious they are about World Cup security.
Dozens of police and military members drove fancy new armored personnel carriers, water cannons and urban assault vehicles - 200 of them in all - while other police officers rappelled down the sides of buildings (although reportedly at least a couple of the rapellers chickened out and ended up going down feet first instead of the customary military-style abseiling technique) and parachuted out of helicopters.
All of this was accompanied by hundreds of office workers who were assigned to wave the flags of the various countries while schoolchildren pushed a gigantic soccer ball down the street. What this had to do with rape, murder or terror attack is uncertain.
The grand finale of this awesome display of - well, something or other - was a simulated carjacking in which a helicopter dropped commandos, flares and stun grenades on a vehicle suffering a mock hijacking.
Afterwards, the Minister of Assuring Frightened Foreigners That South African Police Are Fully Capable of Jumping Out Of Aircraft and Operating Armored Cars Without Hitting Anything spoke to the media on how all of this means that this will be "the safest World Cup ever".
Displays of shiny new vehicles aside, the more reassuring news came from Interpol, which reports that it has dispatched 200 anti-terror experts to the RSA, which officers will work in conjunction with the officers being sent by each of the 31 participating nations - reportedly a minimum of eight per country - who will be in addition to the individual team security forces about which nobody is saying much of anything for obvious reasons.
Less so was the report that a smartaleck radio station has spent the last three months SMUGGLING VARIOUS WEAPONRY, mostly the kind of sharp objects our own beloved TSA so vigilantly roots out, through security and onto airplanes at the various venue cities.
The private company which is in charge of preventing this kind of thing from occurring
"....said it was looking into the allegations and would tighten its procedures. It was confident fans would be safe."
For their part, something called the Institute for Security Studies WANTS TO REASSURE South Africas' citizens that since their country has no enemies" they themselves are not the target of terrorist plans.
Just the tournament and all those foreigners.
I'm certain Sepp Blatter will be sending them a nice thank you card.
All of which begs the question: how worried should we be about all of this?
And of course there's no real answer.
There can be no doubt that the US-England match is perhaps the juiciest target to come down the pike in many a year, and that any number of terrorist groups would dearly love to put that notch on their belts.
I will admit that, say what you will, my faith in South African security is somewhat less than total, but the security forces of the various nations, including two of the very best, will be running the show that day, and they won't be parading about driving water cannons.