World Cup trophy starts final leg of tour

KHAYELITSHA, South Africa - Thousands of excited township dwellers gathered in Cape Town's sprawling Khayelitsha on Friday to catch a glimpse of football's World Cup trophy at the start of its South Africa tour.

Construction workers, civil servants and the unemployed thronged to be photographed with the gold trophy in the city's largest black township before the world's most-watched sporting spectacle kicks offs on June 11.

"I feel OK, proud to be a South African. The trophy will make people happy, excited for the tournament," Zathini Nelani, a self-employed 44-year-old from Khayelitsha township told Reuters.

Nelani, who makes over-sized sunglasses and unique "makaraba" football hard hats, was a walking advertisement for his wares which he said helped earn some cash ahead of the event.

"I am going to keep this picture and show my next generations that we had the World Cup," said unemployed Andile Gomba, 58, as he carefully placed his photo with the trophy in an envelope and put it in his inside jacket pocket.

Machine-gun toting policemen clad in bullet-proof vests watched over crowds as they arrived to gawk at the six kilogram trophy, initially hidden under a black cloth inside a locked glass container.

Organisers are hoping the trophy's journey around host South Africa, the last stage of a world tour, will heighten excitement for the tournament, with ticket sales seemingly waning after a brisk start to buy the last 500,000 tickets for cash.

FIFA's Secretary General Jerome Valcke said he was confident host cities, such as Polokwane, which was struggling to sell tickets to its games, would rise to the challenge.

"The sales are going well ... definitely the 95 percent sales will be reached soon," Valcke told reporters, adding that 55,000 tickets were sold over the last two days.

He said the trophy would be locked in a safe for the duration of the one month event.

Its last public appearance, before the new world champions hold it aloft on July 11, will be at the 90,000 seater Soccer City stadium at the start of the tournament, when South Africa plays Mexico in the opening match.

"This trophy is unique, it has no value ... some say that the value of this trophy is the equivalent of Mona Lisa and I think that's right," Valcke said of the trophy which has been used by FIFA since 1974.

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