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Will fans avoid South Africa?
by Paul Kennedy, January 28th, 2010 7AM



[WORLD CUP 2010] FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke appealed to fans around the world that the 2010 World Cup will be safe and slammed reports of poor ticket sales.

More than 1 million tickets remain available less than five months before the first game, but six matches are already oversubscribed.

"It's sad that every morning when you wake up people are saying you should not go to South Africa," said Valcke. "It's insane and it is completely wrong."

Wednesday's press conference followed reports of poor sales of the tickets allotted to fans of England and Germany through their soccer federations.

Danny Jordaan, CEO of the local organizing committee, countered that there has been a flurry of ticket sales since the World Cup final draw on Dec. 4.

"The sales have gone very well," he said. "We are extremely delighted."

There are three major concerns about ticket sales:

-- The cost of getting to and staying in South Africa is prohibitive.

Franz Beckenbauer, who headed the Germany '06 organizing committee and is on the FIFA executive committee, blasted the costs.

"What normal person can afford 5,000 [$7,000] to 6,000 euros [$8,400] for one week?" he said on German television recently.

-- Fans are deterred by safety concerns in South Africa, which has one of the most highest murder rates in the world.

"People need to be watching out everywhere they go," said Beckenbauer. "It's best to be overcautious, stay in groups whenever possible."

But Valcke dismissed concerns that safety issues should deter fans from traveling to South Africa.

"Where can we organize the World Cup? On the moon? Where there is no one?" he asked. "Don't kill the World Cup before the World Cup has taken place."

-- South Africa fans have a hard time getting access to tickets.

Valcke spoke of "a welcome rise in interest" among South Africans. They formed the vast majority of takers for the third round of sales.

FIFA has agreed to allow the local organizing committee to make it simpler for South Africans to but tickets.

Now, they have to fill out applications at First National Bank branches or online. Beginning in April, they will be able to buy tickets over the counter.

Boosting ticket sales in South Africa is critical. The 2010 World Cup is similar to the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, where foreigners made up only a small fraction of the fans in attendance. South Africa, however, can't match South Korea and Japan for the fervent interest in soccer and huge base of fans with money.


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