JOHANNESBURG - The system for selling World Cup tickets in South Africa has been too complicated and inaccessible to attract poor fans, who are the biggest potential audience, a former top player said on Friday.
John "Shoes" Moshoeu, who played in the national team that won the 1996 African Nations Cup, said poor South Africans did not have the means or knowledge to use the Internet-based ticketing system for advance bookings.
"Football is a poor man's sport and people work (to save up) towards the day of the game. People buy their tickets on the day of the game. We live from hand-to-mouth," he told reporters, standing on the Soccer City pitch that will host the opening and final game of the month-long World Cup.
"They should have accommodated the Africans ... you are not in Europe," Moshoeu added.
Chief World Cup organiser Danny Jordaan and other senior officials have bemoaned the lack of domestic enthusiasm for the first World Cup on African soil.
But critics have long argued that the first phases of ticket sales for the June 11-July 11 tournament excluded millions of poor local fans, who did not understand the on-line ballot system that was used to allocate seats.
Belatedly acknowledging the problem, organisers now say they will offer over-the-counter sales from April, and earlier this week announced hundreds of thousands more cheap seats for South African residents.
Now almost 30 percent of tickets for the first round matches will be offered in the cheapest category at 140 rand ($18), up from the previous 11 percent.
Although these seats are the cheapest for any World Cup in recent years, they are still six times the cost of South African premier league matches, where fans normally buy on the day of the match and ignore numbered seating.
A total of 2.24 million tickets have already been sold globally, leaving 660,000 still on offer before the football extravaganza begins.
Moshoeu, who played for South Africa in the 1998 World Cup in France and scored 8 goals in 73 matches for Bafana Bafana, the name by which the national team is known, said the ticketing system was too complicated for most poor South Africans.
"They are forgetting that they are in Africa ... they need to make things simple," he said.
Moshoeu's comments struck a discordant note during a tour by organisers to show off the huge and impressive Soccer City stadium, the biggest in Africa, 100 days before the tournament begins.
Work is continuing on access areas around the stadium but organisers say it will be complete by the end of March.comments