“My name’s Pavlos, and I actually need the toilet.”
On 20 June, Sunday Mirror writer Simon Wright reported that an England supporter had stumbled into the Three Lions‘ changing room, where he berated the team, and David Beckham, for its “disgraceful” performance against Algeria.
The intruder, one Pavlos Joseph – a mortgage advisor from Crystal Palace in London – was said to have accidentally found his way into the changing room at Cape Town Stadium when he went in search of a toilet 45 minutes after the final whistle. Wright apparently secured the story in what he described as an “old-fashioned scoop”.
Joseph returned to the UK with a unique souvenir from his South African holiday; a criminal record for entering a designated area without accreditation, i.e. trespassing.
Meanwhile, the South African Police Service (SAPS) accused Wright of orchestrating the entire affair with a view to tarnishing the country’s image. The reporter was arrested at Cape Town International Airport on charges of defeating the ends of justice for allegedly harbouring Joseph in the incident’s aftermath. Days later, a charge of fraud was also laid against him.
Police commissioner General Bheki Cele claimed in a press conference that CCTV footage existed proving the two men had met in the tunnel at the England vs. Algeria game. It was alleged that Wright had entered a false name in a hotel register – an immigration law misdemeanour – in the wake of the incident.
The reporter paid an admission of guilt fine for the latter in exchange for all other charges against him being dropped, allowing him to go home to his family.
Upon his return to the UK, he attempted to salvage his reputation through his Sunday Mirror column. Wright insisted he had asked hotel staff to change his name in the register in order to prevent rival journalists from sniffing him out and stealing his exclusive. He denied harbouring Joseph and asserted that the SAPS had used him as a “scapegoat” for their own inadequacies.
South African officials were obviously embarrassed by the lapse in security, particularly as British princes William and Harry had visited Fabio Capello’s men ten minutes prior to the incident. It was a blow to a country that had gone to enormous lengths to shake off its lawless image abroad. Over R1.3 billion had been invested to ensure that the World Cup was uneventful off the pitch; significant amounts of which were dedicated to player security.
Wright’s alleged involvement in the changing room invasion was never proved in court. No CCTV footage has come to light to back up Cele’s claims. The question remains: just how did a seemingly random member of the crowd get the opportunity to confront the English football team?