One dead in World Cup ticket surge

One man died and crowds clashed with cops Thursday as thousands of South Africans scrambled to snap up the remaining tickets for this summer’s World Cup.

Ticketing outlets opened in all nine host cities, giving supporters their first chance to buy tickets directly rather than over the Web.

But system problems and a man’s death marred the day’s events as soccer-loving crowds flocked to snap up half a million tickets.

In Cape Town, a pensioner collapsed and died early Thursday before the center opened, and police used pepper spray on some fans in Pretoria where frustrations flared over the delays.

"There were individuals that did not behave themselves. They were pushing the policemen around," said police spokeswoman Colette Weilbach.

Police in Durban and Polokwane had to calm down dozens of supporters, angered by the slow transaction process as the FIFA system kept on crashing.

Fans were competing to snap up tickets to all 64 of the tournament’s games, including the final.

The showpiece July 11 finale at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium previously had been listed as "sold-out" — but FIFA gave supporters new hope after releasing an additional 300 tickets.

In total, 1,610 tickets were sold to 310 customers nationally within the first hour.

A further 2,166 were sold to 470 fans through a South African bank where tickets are available at 600 branches.

In February, FIFA increased the number of the cheapest tickets that were available in an effort to get more South Africans into stadiums, after criticism that the drawn-out online ticket application process excluded many locals who had no access to the Web.

By last week, a total of 2.2 million of nearly 3 million tickets had been sold, with 85 percent of 240,000 sold in the last push going to South Africans.

Fan Jevon Kannemeyer had not previously applied for tickets online or at branches of the local bank, saying it was a long process that did not guarantee matches.

"I’m very excited because I’m a heavy soccer fanatic," he told AFP as he waited near the front of the queue in Cape Town.

"You can just pay over the counter with your cash and you are guaranteed to get the tickets right now."

Brett Solomon, 26, paid a colleague 300 rands to stand in the queue for him. He said: "You long to be part of it. This is the greatest opportunity to get there on our own soil."