JOHANNESBURG - A record 87,000 spectators filed into Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium for South Africa's season-opening Charity Cup on Saturday, less than a month after the arena hosted the World Cup final.
The country's Premier Soccer League (PSL) said it had sold 80,000 seats for the one-day tournament, which features four teams in three separate matches, and handed out a further 7,000 complimentary tickets.
It was the first event at the stadium since Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 on July 11 to lift the World Cup.
The attendance figure will be broken again in two weeks when a first-ever rugby match is hosted at the cavernous venue, which gained iconic status during the World Cup for its distinctive look, resembling a colourful African calabash or pot.
A 88,791-seat sellout for the Tri-Nations test between the Springboks and New Zealand's All Blacks on August 21 has already been announced.
Soccer City has a total capacity of 94,700 but during the World Cup only some 84,000 seats were sold because place was required for extensive media and VIP facilities.
The PSL is hoping heightened interest following the success of the World Cup will spark an increase in attendance for local league games, which have been poorly supported over the last decade.
"We certainly want to see the fans coming into the stadiums, we want to see all the people who were at the World Cup coming back and experiencing more," said the league's chief executive officer Kjetil Siem.
In an effort to capitalise on post-World Cup fever, the PSL announced it would kick off its league campaign on August 27 with two back-to-back matches at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, also built for the World Cup.
The stadium's capacity has been reduced to 52,000 with the removal of temporary seating installed for the World Cup. PSL spokesman Altaaf Kazi told Reuters they were confident of a sell-out crowd.
The new stadium in Durban will also be used for local league matches this season.
Saturday's Charity Cup traditionally opens the season with the country's four most popular clubs, voted for by public ballot, contesting two semi-finals and then a final, starting at 10 am local time and concluding well into the night.
Tickets for the day cost 50 and 70 South African rand (about $7-$10), less than half for the cheapest seat at the World Cup.comments