Chaos erupts at SWC ticket points

2010-04-15 23:21

Pretoria - Chaos erupted at sales offices on Thursday when people were able to queue for 2010 World Cup tickets for the first time.

Tempers flared in the afternoon at the ticket office in Pretoria's Brooklyn Mall when the police and security officials sprayed soccer fans with pepper spray.

"We had nowhere to go," said Albert Ferreira, a student at the University of Pretoria (UP), who was trapped at the front of the queue.

"People were falling over each other and women were sprayed in the face (with pepper spray). The officials followed the people who ran away for about 30m and sprayed them."

A friend of Ferreira's watched the chaos unfold from an escalator: "One official with a bulletproof vest, an automatic rifle and a 9mm pistol pepper-sprayed people all along the queue, as if it was Christmas."

A Portuguese-speaking man next to him was hit with the butt of a shotgun and also pepper-sprayed in the face, said Ferreira.

He wants to submit a complaint to the police about the way they were treated.

"And I won't watch the soccer."

Final phase

The fifth and last phase of ticket sales kicked off on Thursday, with half-a-million tickets being made available. Many people spent Wednesday night camped out in front of ticket offices.

Chaos also erupted when people starting pushed forward when the ticket office in Sandton opened at about 09:00.

Security guards had their hands full trying to keep the door shut. Saps officers and metro police were called in later.

Thousands of soccer fans in Pretoria also started pushing forward immediately when the doors of the ticket office in the Brooklyn Mall opened.

Two women who were pressed against the door fainted and had to be rescued by security guards. They were treated and taken to a local hospital.

Gordon Bolson, also a student at UP, was pressed up against the glass door for about an hour.

Then the police pulled him from his place at the front and forced him to the back of the queue in an attempt to reduce the pressure.

Sales slow

Furthermore, sales proceeded at a snail's pace, making the crowd even more impatient. People started screaming to be let in and banged on the glass doors.

Police reinforcements arrived between 09:30 and 10:00.

Police spokesperson Colette Weilbach said the police sent all available personnel to the ticket office.

"The police also called in the help of extra centre security and independent security companies, and emergency services were deployed."

André Wiese, commanding officer of the Brooklyn police station, said there were about 5 000 people and they used pepper spray as the absolute minimum force to protect people and property.

They called in the tactical response unit to prevent injuries, he said.

Errol Jacobs from Westbury said the ticket sales were handled incorrectly.

"I've been here since yesterday (Wednesday) at 20:00 - that's almost 24 hours. The security is a disaster. FIFA has let South Africa down with the ticket system."

Nicolas Maingot, FIFA's acting director of communications and public relations, said technical experts are working on improving the system.

"It's the first time and people may feel it's slow."

Muhammed Tar, 21, from Laudium, bought the first ten tickets - for the match between Brazil and Portugal - at the ticket office in Pretoria.

"Don't be jealous!" he yelled at the other people in the queue.