BY SAZI HADEBE
Bafana Bafana are facing the embarrassment of playing in front of the lowest ever attendance to an official international match after it emerged on Tuesday that only 300 tickets have been sold to Saturday’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Burkina Faso at FNB Stadium.
The South African Football Association’s decision to take the game to the Johannesburg venue appears to have backfired spectacularly and organisers are scrambling to save face‚ going as far as halving tickets from R100 to R50.
Stadium Management CEO Jacques Grobbelaar confirmed to TimesLIVE that only 300 tickets have been sold three days before the must-win encounter.
“The tickets are not selling that well‚” admitted Grobbelaar.
So poor are the ticket sales that the few fans who paid R100 will be offered a free glass of beer at FNB Stadium on Saturday.
When coach Stuart Baxter announced his squad on September 20‚ questions were asked about the ticket prices and the risk of taking the match to the fickle Johannesburg soccer public.
Johannesburg fans have a well-documented history of not going to the stadium when Bafana perform poorly but Grobbelaar and Safa officials said at the time they were confident that Baxter’s charges would at least attract 40 000 fans to FNB Stadium.
“We believe the ticket price is still affordable because the last time we had a Bafana match here against Brazil‚ the ticket price was R80 to R100 and the fans responded very well‚” said Grobbelaar said at the time‚ referring to a game that attracted over 67 000 fans.
Bafana last played at FNB Stadium in March 2014 when they received a 5-0 trashing from Brazil in a friendly match.
Things have changed since then and Grobbelaar said they are now hoping that slashing the ticket prices by half will have an impact and they can at least get 15 000 fans at the stadium on Saturday.
“This situation has affected our planning in many ways because we can’t even get entertainers. Artists want to perform in front of at least 20 000 fans.
“How we bump up our entertainment for Saturday will depend on the fans response‚ the more we have the better the entertainment we will have for them on the day‚” said Grobbelaar.
Explaining the rationale behind taking the match to FNB Stadium‚ Safa CEO Dennis Mumble‚ said: “The decision was taken a long time ago with the view that by the time we play Burkina Faso (on Saturday) the team would have qualified or at least be close to doing so.
“We didn’t anticipate that we’d have all the problems we’re having at the moment.
“But we’re still urging our supporters to get behind the team by being at the stadium (on Saturday) because mathematically it’s not all lost for us.”
Emphasizing on the safety of the fans‚ Grobbelaar promised that they would ensure that security is tight in and around the stadium on the day of the match.
“We want the spectators seated nice and early‚ at least two hours before kick‚” he said.