The trouble with Fifazania

2010-04-17 10:38

IT’S supposed to be an African World Cup, so why do we have a European ticketing system?

You’d swear that our entire World Cup Local Organising Committee is ­dumbstruck in the face of the Fifa juggernaut that’s come to town.

Until July, it’s as if we now live in a country called ­Fifazania. The global football federation has brought all its own systems and procedures and has practically hijacked the country.

But surely the men and ­women on the Local Organising Committee could have pointed out a thing or two to Fifa to ­prevent this week’s ticketing chaos. It’s called local ­intelligence.

Just under 20% of us have ­access to the internet. And while the Mzansi entry level bank account has extended ­access to financial services, four out of 10 South Africans still do not have access to a bank ­account.

So most South Africans still prefer buying tickets over the counter for cash. Simple.

While Fifa supremo Sepp Blatter has made much of the first African World Cup, he and his team have not modified ­systems for Africa.

The ticketing system, as we pointed out months ago, was simply too cumbersome for ­ordinary South Africans.

You either had to undertake a drawn-out and clumsy ­purchase of tickets through FNB, or you needed access to the internet to buy through the Fifa website.

And even so, it wasn’t ­simple. You were entered into a pool, had to pay up and only when the ticketing round was completed did you know if you had been successful.

No wonder, then, that most people waited for the opening of normal ticketing centres this week. The local organisers should have been able to ­predict the fans from slow ­ticket sales during the first rounds.

But while all of us wanted this to be a feel-good week, the system was a failure.

Good-natured fans stood in queues for hours, but what started as a festive atmosphere turned into tears of frustration and even to one death.

Ralph van Reenen, a ­pensioner from Mitchell’s Plain, had a heart attack in the queue and died. Others had to receive paramedic attention.

What are the lessons for the World Cup, now 54 days away?

All our systems – transport, security, stadium access, ­stadium clearing – must be stress-tested with dummy runs.

Projections are obviously way out. This is not only true of ticket sales, but also of ­projected long-haul visitors.

Earlier this month Match, the hospitality arm of Fifa, had to return airline tickets and ­hotel rooms because now fewer ­visitors are coming.

An African World Cup means just that – a soccer spectacular in a different part of the globe where systems and practices are different.

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