FIFA is seeking to avoid desolate scenes like this at Cape Town’s Green Point Soccer Stadium during the World Cup (AP Photo).
Can things get any worse for FIFA as fans around the globe stay away from South Africa because of price gouging, rampant crime and crummy transportation?
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — World Cup organizers are more than doubling the number of tickets priced for working-class South Africans, amid indications wealthy foreigners aren’t snapping up seats.
Only 11 percent of tickets had been set aside for citizens of the host country at about $20 each, far less than the price of other tickets. That number has increased to 29 percent, said Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the South African organizing committee.
“You have to take into account that (soccer) fans in South Africa are working-class people of low income,” Jordaan said.
Labor unions and the media pressed Jordaan to make more low-cost tickets available. Half of South Africans live in poverty, and at least a quarter of the nation’s work force is
Other steps taken to make soccer’s premier event accessible to those hosting it include
distributing 120,000 free tickets through sponsors like Coca-Cola, and giving more free
tickets to the men and women who built the stadiums.
“We have made this commitment that the tournament will be affordable,” Jordaan said.
The CEO added he would not be able to determine until all the tickets had been sold what effect the larger percentage of inexpensive tickets would have on his bottom line.
“We are comfortable we have enough money, more than enough, to deliver,” he said.
FIFA acknowledged this month that only half of the VIP tickets for spots in luxury booths had been sold, which organizers blamed on the global recession.
FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke, who joined Jordaan on Thursday following an organizing committee board meeting, said 2.24 million of 2.9 million total tickets had been sold.
Officials said other matters discussed at the board meeting included concerns about the
readiness of some stadiums. Drainage problems were discovered at the stadium in Nelspruit, in eastern South Africa, and a special committee has been formed to monitor the playing surface in all 10 facilities.
Valcke said that while work remained outside the main Johannesburg stadium, where parking lots and access roads are not complete, the field itself is impressive.
“There could be a game tomorrow morning,” Valcke said of Soccer City, which will host the opening match and final. “From the inside, this stadium looks beautiful.”
South Africa has faced persistent questions about whether a developing country can pull off a World Cup, and officials have just as persistently insisted they would be ready for the June 11 opener.
“The work goes on,” Jordaan said, “and the next two weeks are quite critical.”
Meanwhile, the England team is in increasing turmoil ahead of its World Cup opener against the U.S. with it now appearing the Brits have as many problems at left back as the Americans:
LONDON (AP) — A bridge too far?
Wayne Bridge is refusing to play for England in the wake of teammate John Terry’s alleged affair with his former partner, saying Thursday that his presence on the World Cup squad could be “divisive.”
Wayne’s world crashed when former friend John Terry got too friendly with Bridge’s now former partner (AP Photo).
Coach Fabio Capello expected Bridge to play for England after stripping Terry of the captaincy when details of his affair with Vanessa Perroncel were published. The announcement by Bridge creates problems with team selection and harmony three months before South Africa.
“It has always been an honor to play for England,” Bridge said in a statement released by his lawyers. “However, after careful thought I believe my position in the squad is now untenable and potentially divisive.”
After weeks of lurid headlines about his players — including first-choice left back Ashley Cole — Capello spoke Tuesday of the need to restore unity in the locker room.
However, Bridge is apparently unable to forge a professional relationship with Terry. The rift could be on display Saturday if the pair don’t shake hands in the pre-match formalities at Stamford Bridge when Manchester City plays Chelsea, the club that Bridge left last year.
Terry’s presence could also cause friction with England teammates aware that his alleged affair with the mother of Bridge’s child forced his one-time friend to miss the World Cup.
Expressing sadness at his decision, Bridge’s statement continued: “I feel for the sake of the team and in order to avoid what will be inevitable distractions, I have decided not to put myself forward for selection. … I have today informed the management of this decision. I wish the team all the very best in South Africa.”
England’s soccer association has supported Capello to ensure the fallout from the Terry-Bridge saga doesn’t affect the squad at the World Cup.
“If you want to have great team spirit then you need someone who can manage that and we have the world’s best in Fabio dealing with these difficult decisions,” FA chief executive Ian Watmore told Talk Sport radio. “Fabio has to judge what’s best for team spirit. We won’t win in South Africa if we don’t have that. But we should have confidence that we will have it.”
An immediate issue for Capello is filling the left back slot for Wednesday’s friendly against Egypt, with first-choice Cole recovering from a broken ankle and uncertain whether he will be fit for England’s World Cup opener against the United States on June 12.
“It leaves Capello with no tried and tested left backs, and that causes a slight problem,”
said former England defender Danny Mills, who played at the 2002 World Cup. “Ashley Cole, if all being well and his recovery time is as quick as we think it might be, might make it back for the end of the season.
“But it won’t take an awful lot of that to be delayed slightly and for him to miss out too, so
that makes this friendly and the next few England games very, very important.”
Capello will use Wednesday’s match to audition others in the position with the likeliest
candidates being Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock.
Baines is yet to appear for the England senior side but has impressed for Everton this season, while Warnock’s only international experience amounts to six minutes as a substitute against Trinidad and Tobago in June 2008.
Americans can’t do any gloating though. MLS was formed, in part, to not only develop the sport in this country, but the U.S. National Team. How will a MLS strike help that cause?
Read more here:
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Brian Ching is worried a possible Major League Soccer strike could hurt the chance of U.S.-based players to make the World Cup roster.
“If we’re not playing games week in and week out, that puts us at a big disadvantage,” Ching said Wednesday night after helping the U.S. rally past El Salvador 2-1 in an exhibition. “Hopefully, it doesn’t happen.”
Ching scored on a diving header in the 75th minute and assisted on Sacha Kljestan’s go-ahead goal in the second minute of stoppage time.
All but one of the U.S. players was from MLS, which appears to be on the verge of its first strike, and for many it was their last chance to impress coach Bob Bradley before he selects his 23-man U.S. roster. The Americans again badly missed their Europe-based starters, who also weren’t used in the 3-1 loss to Honduras on Jan. 23.
Chivas USA’s Jonathan Bornstein said the potential shutdown should not be the focus.
“It’s something we’ll take in stride if it were to happen,” Bornstein said. “We’re all
professionals here. We all know what it’s going to take, should something happen, to stay in shape and do what we have to do. Should it happen, we’ll hit it head on when the time comes.”
The 14th-ranked U.S. outshot No. 71 El Salvador 18-3 with the “B” team. If there is an MLS strike, Bradley will adjust training plans ahead of the arrival of Europe-based players in mid-May.
“The only thing that I think matters from a national team standpoint is that we’ll react
accordingly in terms of schedule, training, that kind of thing,” he said.
Ching, Kljestan, Bornstein and Heath Pearce were among only a handful of U.S. players on the night’s roster who appear to have a decent chance of being selected for the World Cup roster.
Ching was on the 2006 team but didn’t get into a match.