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South Africans Queue for World Cup Tickets

Published on Monday 19th April 2010 South Africans Queue for World Cup Tickets

SOCCER World Cup fever swept across the country as desperate South Africans queued for hours for the 500000 tickets that usually inflexible football governing body Fifa was forced to sell over the counter yesterday.

About 50000 tickets were sold on the first day and Danny Jordaan, CEO of the local organising committee, said the long queues that snaked around ticketing centres and First National Bank branches across the country rubbished European media claims that empty stands would greet teams when they arrived for the June 11-July 11 event.

"They said no one wanted to buy these tickets," a cheerful Jordaan said as scores of soccer lovers braved scorching temperatures outside the Sandton ticketing centre.

"They said we would be forced to give the tickets away because no one wanted to come here. They said we would have to pay people to watch the matches because there was no interest in this World Cup.

"Well, it looks like the tickets are flying off the shelf because people want these tickets badly. We have lived with this kind of negativity since we won the rights to host the World Cup in 2004 and it is OK."

Fifa announced last night that a total of 1610 tickets were sold to 310 customers nationally at the ticketing centres within an hour after they opened at 9am yesterday, while 2166 tickets were sold to 470 fans at First National Bank branches.

Jordaan said that while he had expected South Africans to come out in their numbers to purchase the tickets that became available over the counter yesterday, he had not expected the huge turnout at ticketing centres across the country.

"I am really surprised that in these economically depressed times people are still able to buy tickets like this on the first day of sales.

"This is the experience that South Africans wanted but I must tell you I am still surprised."

Ticket sales were sluggish in the beginning of the year as fans complained that Fifa's format of filling in application forms and submitting the completed documents to First National Bank branches was too complicated to comprehend after years of purchasing tickets over the counter at Computicket.

Since many traditional soccer lovers have limited access to the internet, the alternative of applying online on the Fifa website was always going to be underutilised.

Many fans said that they were put off by what they had to go through to get tickets.

Fifa initially seemed reluctant to change years of ticketing methods to accommodate the South African mind-set, even though it was evident during last year's Confederations Cup that the football governing body would have to adapt.

But with the June 11 kickoff to the World Cup approaching, and with some foreign nations returning their tickets, it became blatantly obvious that the notoriously inflexible organisation would have to listen to advice from the organising committee.

Fifa eventually relented and announced three months ago that 500000 tickets would be available over the counter from yesterday.

Doctor Darryl Smith and his wife, Wendy, were third in line at the Sandton ticketing centre after taking turns in the long queue throughout the night.

Smith said they had booked into a hotel adjacent to the centre and slept in shifts.

When they eventually got their tickets, they had spent about R11000 to watch various matches, including the World Cup final.

Jordaan said that, based on ticket sales so far, it was now expected that about 200000 foreign visitors would arrive. Initial estimates set the target at 450000 visitors.

"The reality is the world has changed because of the global economic crisis. But I still think we might get 300000."

Jordaan said he was astounded by the lengths to which sections of the English media had gone to dissuade fans from travelling to SA.

They tried to link the safety of the World Cup to the murder of Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging leader Eugene TerreBlanche, claiming machete-wielding gangs were roaming the streets in SA.

They then claimed an earthquake was likely to disrupt the tournament, among a host of other unfounded assertions.

"It seems to me that some people are still hopeful that this World Cup will not happen in this country," Jordaan said.

"People have reported negatively consistently without a shred of truth. But nothing they can say is going to change the fact that the World Cup will happen in this country from June 11.

"The World Cup trophy will come here next month, and the teams will follow in June. That is the reality."

Jordaan said a final assessment of the ticket sales would be possible only towards the end of the month.

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