AFRICANGLOBE – It is all systems go for Africa’s top soccer showcase on Saturday despite problems with ticket sales and concerns about the weather.
South Africa’s Sports minister Fikile Mbalula said he was “confident” the 2013 edition of the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) would be a success, despite initial “hiccups” in the organising of the soccer extravaganza.
Mbalula said the Local Organising Committee (LOC) “could have approached ticketing differently”.
But he was confident and hopeful that stadiums would be filled.
“To mobilise South African people for a soccer match, it doesn’t take a difficult merger of mobilisation,” he said.
“Tell South Africans the date and the time and where to get the tickets, they will be there.”
Mbalula said over R400 million had been set aside for the tournament.
Last week, the LOC came under heavy criticism for lacklustre marketing and poor communication that affected ticket sales.
Sipho Sithole, spokesman for the organising committee, said about 426,000 tickets had been sold so far.
Meanwhile, the South African weather service says heavy downpours are expected over the weekend as the country looks to the start of Afcon and is “likely to have serious impact” on the opening day of the tournament.
Two national teams – Burkina Faso and defending champions – Zambia have already arrived.
The game between hosts Bafana Bafana and Cape Verde kicks off on at the National Stadium in Johannesburg.
Several high profile African superstars are set to wow the thousands who were lucky enough to get tickets for the opening game.
Mbalula said he believed the tournament would leave a legacy similar to what the country had experienced after the 2010 World Cup.
“The tournament would be viewed across the globe, and the spin-off for that is that tourism would increase,” Mbalula said.
Earlier this week, President Jacob Zuma visited the stadium and said the country “did well” in preparing for the tournament, considering it was initially meant to be held in Libya.
He said he was satisfied that the national team Bafana Bafana and the country was ready for the tournament.