Fifa’s 120,000 World Cup free­bies

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG: South Africans will get 120,000 free tick­ets to next year’s World Cup, or­gan­is­ers said yes­ter­day, in­sist­ing the poor should share in the ex­cite­ment of Africa host­ing the pop­u­lar sport­ing event.

Fifa said its 2010 World Cup Ticket Fund is the first of its kind in the 80 years of the tour­na­ment. Fifa had al­ready set low ticket prices for South African res­i­dents, start­ing at R140 (about $17), com­pared to $80 for in­ter­na­tional tick­ets.

But with more than a quar­ter of the work force un­em­ployed, and many of those who do have jobs earn­ing $10 a day or less, even cheap seats are out of reach.

Jabu Humphrey Ngoaile, a Jo­han­nes­burg uni­ver­sity stu­dent, said he would like to see a World Cup match, but had other pri­or­i­ties for his money such as tu­ition and feed­ing his son.

“Even work­ing peo­ple will not, for in­stance, take half of their salary just to go watch a match,” he said. “It’s too much.”

The bulk of the free tick­ets will be dis­trib­uted by Fifa’s spon­sors – Adi­das, Coca-Cola, Emi­rates air­line, Hyundai and Kia car mak­ers, Sony and Visa. They will fo­cus on poor fans work­ing in fields such as health care and ed­u­ca­tion.

Coke, for ex­am­ple, is en­cour­ag­ing stu­dents in im­pov­er­ished ar­eas to col­lect bot­tles for re­cy­cling while they learn about pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

Schools whose stu­dents col­lect the most will win some of the 20,000 free tick­ets Coke has been given to dis­trib­ute.

Construction work­ers who are build­ing sta­di­ums and other in­fra­struc­ture will get 40,000 of the 120,000 free tick­ets.

The month-long tour­na­ment kicks off in 300 days in Jo­han­nes­burg, and chief lo­cal or­gan­iser Danny Jor­daan said he has re­peat­edly been asked whether ev­ery­thing would be ready.

“The work­ers said ‘yes’, and we say ‘thank you’,” Jor­daan said at yes­ter­day’s an­nounce­ment of the free-ticket scheme.

Tens of thou­sands of sta­dium and trans­porta­tion project work­ers went on strike for a week last month, say­ing they weren’t be­ing paid enough for their role in ready­ing South Africa for the World Cup. Some of the la­bor­ers claimed to be tak­ing home less than $100 a month.

Jor­daan said time lost dur­ing the re­cent strike was be­ing made up. “There’s flood­lights at night and the work­ers are work­ing.”

Jor­daan was speak­ing at the Soweto site where Nel­son Man- dela and other anti-apartheid ac­tivists gath­ered in 1955 to set out their vi­sion of a bet­ter fu­ture. They adopted the Free­dom Char­ter, which de­clares that “South Africa be­longs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no gover nment can justly claim au­thor­ity un­less it is based on the will of all the peo­ple.”

The site, now a pub­lic plaza with a con­ven­tion hall and street mar­ket, is a sym­bol of what South Africa has over­come. But the pres­ence of shacks nearby shows the per­sis­tence of apartheid’s legacy of poverty and in­equal­ity.

“There’s a big seg­ment of our so­ci­ety that will not be able to af­ford to buy a ticket to the World Cup,” Jor­daan said.

A short drive from where he spoke, ce­ment trucks and earth movers were kick­ing up dust as work con­tin­ued on Soc­cer City, the World Cup’s main sta­dium. Jerry Lepha­lala, a 24-year-old soc­cer fan who’d been looking for work for a year, said he’d just got­ten a job on the site. Some of his R140 a day earn­ings – the cost of a seat at the games – would go to buy World Cup tick­ets for him­self and friends, he said.

“We’re go­ing to host this one well,” he said. “All the world is com­ing.” – AP

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