FIFA General Secretary, Jerome Valcke, told Radio VOP that the world soccer body is planning to bus soccer supporters from Zimbabwe and other regional countries into Polokwane, Nelspruit and Port Elizabeth to fill up empty seats of the expansive stadiums build for the World Cup.
“We are working on bringing and bussing people from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and other neighbouring countries to matches in Polokwane and Nelspruit because it is not far,” said Valcke. “We can’t show the world empty stadiums because many overseas media are still saying it was a mistake to take the World Cup to South Africa.” Valcke said ticket sales in the three towns have been slow and they still have empty seats, which is why they are reaching out to countries like Zimbabwe.
Initially Zimbabwe, through the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA), got a ticket allocation of just 90 tickets.
If the plan by FIFA comes to fruition, it will be sweet music for many Zimbabweans who could not buy World Cup tickets online.The majority of Zimbabweans do not have access to credit cards and plastic money.
Matches in Polokwane, Nelspruit and Port Elizabeth, three of South Africa’s smaller cities hosting World Cup matches, have not been
impressive as many poor South Africans opt to either watch the soccer showpiece from the comfort of their homes or in the many fan parks that will be opened on June 11 when the event kicks off.
The online ticket sales system initially used by FIFA to sell tickets was not user friendly for many soccer loving Africans, most of whom have no access to regular internet access. This coupled with a complicated ticket application system resulted in few Africans buying tickets.
Upon realising that the system was not working for Africans, even those in technologically advanced South Africa, FIFA opened over the counter sales which saw over 200 000 tickets being snapped in just a week. But still soccer fans in neighbouring countries could not travel to buy these tickets in South Africa.
However Valcke said the experience was a learning curve.
“Maybe we have to think about our online system for host countries who do not have good internet access. What we have learnt is that next time we need to mix the culture and systems,” said Valcke.