South Africans: come to the party!

5 March 2009

Remember the outpouring of emotion the moment when Fifa President Sepp Blatter confirmed that the World Cup would finally be hosted by Africa? Scenes of millions of people celebrating the dawn of the 2010 era were flashed around the world.

But now, with just three months remaining before the Confederations Cup and 16 months left until the World Cup kicks off, Fifa and the 2010 Local Organising Committee (LOC) are concerned by the pace of ticket sales.

The Project 2010 column: Craig Urquhart So far, only 170 000 tickets out of 640 000 have been sold for the 2009 “Festival of Champions”.

LOC chairman Irvin Khoza says international ticket sales are three times higher than in South Africa. LOC chief executive Danny Jordaan notes that there has been more enthusiasm from countries like Australia and Canada than from South Africa.

The problem is that while the World Cup promotes itself, Fifa and the LOC are counting on South Africans to fill the stadiums for the Confederations Cup.

After all, empty stadiums for this key 2010 curtain-raiser will send the wrong message to the hundreds of thousands of fanatics who are weighing up whether to spend a small fortune on visiting a long-haul destination in 2010.

For too long, local fans have been content either to watch their football on television or, in the case of those who make the effort, to purchase their tickets at the last minute.

That has to change. The international spotlight is steadily moving towards South Africa as the quadrennial showpiece of international football nears.

It is time for all of South Africa to embrace this opportunity and to celebrate the spectacular improvement in the domestic league as well as the real progress that Bafana Bafana are showing under Joel Santana.

We owe it to ourselves to fill our stadiums for the Confederations Cup – there can be no better advertisement for 2010.

Urquhart is a former Fifa World Cup media officer and the current editor of Project 2010