Amid the swirl of colourful flags and deafening vuvuzelas that have already brought such life to the World Cup, one striking negative sticks out like a sore thumb: empty seats.
Though the opening game between South Africa and Mexico was a truly memorable occasion, in which the host nation paraded its wonderful colours and noise to the world, many following matches have seen sparse attendances.
While the hum of the vuvuzelas has still been evident, the vast swathes of empty seats have been alarming.
You would never expect to see spare seats at the FIFA World Cup, the most watched sporting event on earth, let alone half-empty grounds.
FIFA must be held accountable for the ticketing debacle that has clouded such a proud moment for all of Africa.
They should have known tickets would be too expensive for most Africans.
They should have known that, as a result of longer travelling distances and the economic recession, there would be less supporters travelling than there were at Germany in 2006.
So when FIFA realised thousands of tickets had yet to be sold, why weren’t those tickets offered to South Africans on a much cheaper basis, at a rate the majority could actually afford?
Why weren’t they given to the people whose taxes had been spent on world-class football facilities?
Surely, FIFA must have known the Algeria vs. Slovenia contest wouldn't be a sell-out weeks before the match was played. Surely, there was enough time to give the tickets to those Africans not wealthy enough to get into the exclusive VIP party on their doorstep.
Millions of pounds have been spent on building stadiums that host only four or five group matches., so the least FIFA could do is ensure people are actually using those venues.
Some tickets have been given away to construction workers who helped build the stadiums, but that is not enough. That is saying that some South African workers deserve the tickets more than others.
Surely, it also made economic sense for FIFA to ensure all tickets were sold. A cheap ticket sale is better than no ticket sale, and TV companies are hardly enjoying the prospect of panning their HD cameras over large areas of deserted seats.
FIFA are known to be probing the situation, and transport facilities are also being questioned—FIFA’s fault again. They declared the facilities acceptable.
So, along with the awful beach ball that FIFA calls a football, the empty seats shrouding this World Cup is something football’s governing body should be heavily criticised for.
It is South Africa’s World Cup, so why not let them have the unsold tickets for cheaper prices?
Why not stop them from being strangers at their own party?
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