FIFA tempts SA fans with 300 final tickets

FIFA attempted to boost sluggish ticket sales for the World Cup on Thursday by offering South African fans 300 seats for the final over the counter.

Eleven ticket centers opened across the country for the last phase of sales, with tickets for the final available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Thousands of fans lined up outside a shopping mall in Soweto – near where the opening game and the final will be held at Soccer City.

FIFA ticket center manager Richard Lalla said the final tickets would last "a few minutes," but that was enough time for Malin Fisher, a 32-year-old trainee church minister, who spent more than 10,000 rands ($1,370) on six tickets, including two for soccer’s biggest game.

Fisher was first through the doors of the newly opened ticket center after queuing overnight and said it was "an incredible feeling" to have tickets.

"There are no words (to describe it). I’ve spent a couple of rands but it’s all worth it," he said while holding his tickets up for photographers and TV cameras. "The Internet and applying was a bit frustrating but to be able to buy World Cup final tickets over the counter, that was amazing."

Fisher is one of many South Africans to be frustrated by FIFA’s initial online process, which did not work for local supporters who are not used to buying tickets for soccer games on the Internet. Many are on low incomes and have no access to the internet and no credit cards.

"I didn’t even bother to go onto the Internet to buy because it was a waste of time to me," Nodoimpela Dlamini said as he waited patiently outside Soweto’s Maponya Mall. "Most of my colleagues who had applied through the Internet had been refused and actually couldn’t get tickets."

FIFA and local organizers are under pressure to sell 500,000 match tickets for the monthlong tournament, which begins June 11.

"I think the original process had to be put in place so that everyone across the country and across the world could have a fair chance to get their hands on some tickets," Lalla said. "Now that it is over the counter, I think our South African market is excited because this is what we are used to, this is our culture. It’s more for our market now and people will do really well with the tickets that are left."

In Sandton, the upper class area where Johannesburg’s second ticket center opened after a brief delay, there was excitement from fans finally comfortable with the ticket process.

"I just want to be part of the magic of 2010. Last chance to experience the magic," Deon McCarthy said. "That’s why I’m here. Look at the atmosphere, the spirit here. It’s great."