FIFA president Sepp Blatter is hoping that former South African president Nelson Mandela will be healthy enough to open the World Cup in South Africa.
“We cross fingers that Nelson Mandela … can realise this dream. And his dream would be to be at the opening of the World Cup. For the time being, he is doing well and we hope that he can do it,” Blatter said at a press conference. “It will be his World Cup.”
The former Nobel Prize winner, now 91, made his last public appearance on February 11 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his release from prison.
Blatter, who faced questions about South Africa’s readiness to host the tournament, added that he wasconfident the event would be a success and predicted that more than 95 per cent of tickets will be sold.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, who is responsible for overseeing the tournament, said South Africa was so well prepared it could start the World Cup “tomorrow”.
Meanwhile, Valcke added that FIFA would not be giving away any free tickets, nor will there be a discount on tickets still to be sold for the World Cup.
He admitted in a report carried by Reuters that their largely internet-based system of ticket sales for the World Cup may have been a mistake, but added that stadiums will be at least 95 per cent full for all matches after a sales surge.
Over-the-counter sales of tickets in South Africa began a week ago, igniting real World Cup fever in the country for the first time, and there was chaos as thousands of fans rushed to buy, crashing the computer system.
“I think we should have opened ticketing centres in the country before. Yes, we have to think about our ticketing policies and maybe review the policy which limits people to buying four tickets for one game. We will learn for 2014,” he added.
World soccer’s governing body initially made tickets available only on the internet and was criticised for misunderstanding South African culture, where the poor black fans who are soccer’s biggest supporters do not have access to computers or bank accounts.
The fifth and final stage of sales has seen 500,000 tickets put on offer and Valcke said that 200,000 had already been snapped up.
Until the last week’s surge, there had been worries empty seats could mar the tournament after tickets were returned from overseas and corporate customers.
“We're very confident of having a high number of people attending all 64 matches,” Valcke said. “The only World Cup with 100 per cent occupancy was in 1994 in the United States, but we will have at least 95 per cent occupancy of all stadiums."