SA prepares for new invasion

2010-06-25 10:03

South Africa was bracing yesterday for a new wave of football fans

as the World Cup enters the knockout stages on a tide of positive feedback about

the hosts and the prospect of a titanic Germany-England clash.

With only eight games left in the group stages, supporters of the

teams that have been eliminated are starting to pack their bags – making way for

a new group of fans, who had been waiting to see if their team would make the

last 16 before hopping on a plane.

Wednesday was a seminal day – with the United States, Germany and

England all inching through on the back of a goal each in their final group


Michael Tatalias, chief executive of the Southern African Tourism

Services Association, said: “The 23rd of June was a very pro-tourism day in

South Africa.”

The three countries are among South Africa’s biggest tourism

markets but until now most German and English fans had given Africa’s first

World Cup the cold shoulder – apparently put off by the cost of the flight and

horror stories about crime.

Tatalias estimates the maximum number of fans in the country at any

time since kick-off on June 11 at between 150 000 and 200 000.

Tatalias’ estimate is backed by figures from the Department of Home

Affairs, which show a year-on-year increase of 111 548 foreign visitors between

June 1 and 13 – probably due to the World Cup.

That’s a far cry from the 450 000 foreign fans forecast by the

government and local organising committee up until a few months ago and it shows

in the half-empty hotels on non-match days in many host cities.

The industry is now hoping for a fresh invasion, led by the English

and Germans.

With the two arch-rivals now pitted against each other for a

quarterfinal spot in what promises to be one of the most exciting games of the

tournament on Sunday, the English army is mobilising anew.

Nick Sandon, spokesperson for Thomas Cook Sport UK, said: “After

the (England-Slovenia) game, we sold all our remaining packages for the next

game within a few hours.”

The 1 097-pound (R12 500) package includes return flights to

Johannesburg, five nights stay in a game lodge near the city, a category-one

ticket to the game against Germany, coach transfer to the venue in Bloemfontein

and several game drives.

It doesn’t include a sleepover in the City of Roses, which has only

a handful of hotels, at least two of which were booked out within hours of

Germany’s 1-0 win over Ghana.

Two city centre hotels, the Stanville, which has 44 rooms, and the

Halevy Heritage, which has 21, said their phones rang non-stop after the


“The last 12 hours were hectic!” a receptionist at the Halevy

Heritage said.

A scramble for tickets to the game in Free State Stadium was also

under way, with Fifa making only an extra 1 000 tickets available.

A number of England fans thought they had tickets but they had

banked on Fabio Capello’s men topping their group, in which case they would have

been playing this weekend in the north-western Rustenburg, not


England is placed second in Group C behind the United States,

meaning they have to hurriedly swap cities.

By contrast, German fans who gambled on their team leading Group D

and bought tickets to the Bloemfontein game saw their faith pay off.

In both countries, the sudden lure of the World Cup is fuelled by

the overwhelmingly positive feedback from fans and media already at the


Tatalias said: “The story going back now is a fantastic story –

with pictures of blue skies, people having a party and teams doing well.

It just

goes to show you that Franz Beckenbauer (the former German manager who had

questioned South Africa’s suitability as a host) knows a lot about soccer but

very little about developing countries.”

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