South Africans blamed for empty seats

BLOEMFONTEIN - FIFA president Sepp Blatter suggested on Monday that unsold tickets for Confederations Cup matches should be given away rather than have empty seats at games after disappointing opening day crowds. Blatter told a news briefing before the start of the competition's third match between Brazil and Egypt that he had held a meeting with organisers on Monday morning after neither of Sunday's games attracted capacity crowds. "I had a meeting with the organising committee this morning, and I think they should have done a little bit more to bring more people to the stadium. "They could have given the empty seats at Ellis Park to the boys and girls who had taken part in the opening ceremony. They could have watched the match. "There must be some action taken for the rest of the competition. To have half-empty stadiums is not FIFA. They have to do something about it. "We know that the prices of the tickets cannot be too high, but bring the young people or the poor people into the stadium, and nobody will be offended by that." The attendance at the match between five-times world champions Brazil and African champions Egypt, which Blatter attended was also disappointingly low with the 40,000-capacity Free State Stadium only about half full when the match kicked off. Blatter added: "We were not happy with the crowd at the opening match (South Africa v Iraq) or on Sunday evening when the European champions Spain were playing New Zealand in Rustenburg. It is up to the organisers, the local media, to get the message across." BETTER RESPONSE Organisers of this event and next year's World Cup finals have called for a better response from the South African public for the games. "You can take a horse to water but you can't force it to drink," organising committee spokesman Rich Mkhondo told a news briefing earlier in the day in Johannesburg. "We have emphasised many times this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Our job is to stage the event but it is up to the South African nation to attend it." Despite the Confederations Cup being the first major footballing event of its kind on the African continent, South Africa played against Iraq to a crowd of under 50,000 in a 61,000-capacity stadium at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. Attendance at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg for the match between European champions Spain and New Zealand was 21,649, just over half its 42,000 capacity. The cheapest ticket prices are 70 rand ($8.69) more than three times the price of ticket for South African league matches.