South Africans queue overnight for tickets

JOHANNESBURG - South Africans queued overnight for a chance on Thursday to buy half a million unsold World Cup tickets - including some for the final - in the last phase of sales for the tournament which starts in June.

FIFA agreed this week to drop a ruling that tickets could only be bought online or through a ballot and they will be on sale over the counter at ticket centres, in shopping malls and some popular supermarkets.

That makes it much easier for the many South Africans without internet access or credit cards. It will be the first time fans can buy tickets over the counter and queues began forming late on Wednesday.

"I'm going to kiss my ticket when I get it," said one man called Godfrey at the Maponya Mall in South Africa's biggest black township, Soweto. He did not want to give his name because he was skipping work to stand in line.

"The last time I waited in a line like this was when I voted for Mandela," he said, recalling the elections won by Nelson Mandela at the end of apartheid in 1994.

Tickets went on sale at 7am GMT.

They are available for all 64 matches. FIFA had previously said the final was sold out, but on Wednesday announced 300 late tickets would be released for the biggest match in world football.

"I'm just waiting in anticipation," said Marlin Fisher, training to be a church minister. "I would love for South Africa to go all the way and I will also put my money on the Brazilian team."

FIFA had previously insisted on selling tickets through its website but many South Africans complained they were excluded. Tickets are still well above normal prices for top-level football in South Africa.

A special category of tickets for residents of South Africa sells at $20 but costs escalate drastically in higher categories for better seats and after the first-round group phase. Tickets for premier seats at the final costs $900.

Demand in South Africa had initially been sluggish but the most recent phase saw locals snap up 85 percent of the 240,000 tickets sold between February and the beginning of this month.

FIFA said last week 2.2 million tickets have been sold for the tournament, which kicks off on June 11.

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