Scuffles as South Africans rush for Cup tickets
South African police stepped in to stop scuffles on Thursday and a pensioner died in the queue as thousands of South Africans rushed for 500,000 World Cup football tickets being sold for cash for the first time.
Queues began on Wednesday afternoon and frustration built as people inched forwards for a chance to get tickets, including some for the final on July 11. Computer crashes tested the patience of crowds at some centres and tempers flared.
"Police were called in," said Eugene Opperman, South African Police Services spokesman in Gauteng, of an incident at Brooklyn Mall Pretoria, about 60 km (40 miles) from Johannesburg, where police using pepper spray restored order.
"There was pushing and shoving amongst the people and it was decided police should go there for crowd control," he added.
Image: Police keep watch over South African football fans waiting to buy tickets for the 2010 FIFA World Cup
Tickets sales below expectations
In Sandton, north of Johannesburg, angry South Africans argued with police who used a vehicle to disperse the crowd.
A 64-year-old man suffered an apparent seizure as he waited in a queue in Cape Town. He was number 565 in the line.
Around 120,000 of the tickets are available to South Africans for $20 ( 12.95), the lowest price at a World Cup for many years.
Ticket sales in South Africa had been below expectations until recently and soccer's governing body FIFA was criticised for selling them in a complex system over the internet which was alien to poor black soccer fans accustomed to getting tickets for cash on match days.
Officials acknowledged mistakes had been made and launched a new system of sales through ticketing offices and supermarkets on Thursday, hoping to sell out the tournament after disappointing overseas sales and returned tickets.
Image: South Africans queue to buy tickets for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Soweto
'I'm going to kiss my ticket when I get it'
"I'm going to kiss my ticket when I get it," said one man called Godfrey at the Maponya Mall in South Africa's biggest black township, Soweto. He did not want to give his name because he was skipping work to stand in line.
"The last time I waited in a line like this was when I voted for Mandela," he said, recalling the elections won by Nelson Mandela at the end of apartheid in 1994.
FIFA had previously said the final was sold out, but on Wednesday announced 300 late tickets would be released for the biggest match in world football.
"I'm just waiting in anticipation," said Marlin Fisher, training to be a church minister.
"I would love for South Africa to go all the way and I will also put my money on the Brazilian team," he added.
Image: Mithethwa Sibusiso of South Africa shows his tickets as he is the first person who obtained World Cup tickets
Tickets are still well above normal prices
Tickets are still well above normal prices for top-level football in South Africa.
Even the special cheap tickets are more than five times the cost of normal top class games and costs escalate drastically in higher categories for better seats and after the first-round group phase. Tickets for premier seats at the final cost $900.
Demand in South Africa had initially been sluggish but the most recent phase saw locals snap up 85 per cent of the 240,000 tickets sold between February and the beginning of this month.
FIFA said last week 2.2 million tickets had been sold for the tournament, which kicks off on June 11.
A few months ago FIFA officials complained there was not enough atmosphere in South Africa around the continent's first World Cup but the over-the-counter sales seemed to have changed that with excitement building rapidly.
Image: A fan holds tickets as the final round of sales begins