The World Cup could be vulnerable to a terrorist attack, despite repeated South African assurances that the tournament is safe and the discovery of what looks like a half-baked plot hatched in Iraq.
The recent arrest in Iraq of Abdullah Azzam al-Qahtani, an alleged al Qaeda supporter who says he was planning an attack on the Dutch and Danish teams, has revived debate on whether the soccer spectacular in South Africa faces a threat of this kind.
South African officials have long said their respected non-aligned status and the lack of any substantial local support for militant groups should insulate them from terrorism.
Both the government and soccer's governing body FIFA, which is cooperating with foreign security agencies and Interpol, say no viable threat has been identified.
Although most experts say Qahtani's scheme appeared far from posing a serious threat, they believe terrorism cannot be ruled out because of the huge attention that even a small attack would get during the June 11-July 11 World Cup.
"It is the biggest sports event in the world. Although South Africa might think we are beyond the interests of groups like al Qaeda, the event is the target, not the country," said Anneli Botha, from the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria.
"What makes South Africa so unique? Yes, we are not involved in Iraq or Afghanistan, but unfortunately the tremendous media coverage you are going to get will definitely attract not only al Qaeda but I think even smaller groups," she told Reuters.