Fifa’s 120,000 World Cup freebies
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