May 21st, 2010
11:34 AM GMT
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The Foreign Correspondent’s Association of Southern Africa organized a lunch with Jerome Valcke this week. Fifty reporters who work for non–South African media gathered at a Johannesburg hotel to ask the FIFA general secretary questions about the World Cup.

The most interesting things he had to say referred to the ticketing system. Valcke admitted that it was disappointing that more Africans hadn’t bought tickets. Only 40000 people from the rest of Africa would be travelling to South Africa for the World Cup, he said.

The reasons? He conceded that tickets might be too expensive for most Africans. The ticket prices are the same price as the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Also, FIFA has realized selling tickets over the Internet has been a difficult and complicated process for most Africans because Internet penetration is low on the continent. He said FIFA was looking at changing the whole ticketing process for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

He said 2.865 million tickets were available for this year’s World Cup and 90 percent of them have been sold so far. FIFA is concerned about illegal ticket touts making money out of black market sales of tickets.

So they are working with Interpol, which has set up a taskforce dealing specifically with this crime. Valcke says they are less interested in the lone guy outside the stadium gates trying to make a fast buck on his handful of tickets. Instead, they are concerned about crime syndicates hacking into their computers systems and stealing ticketing information.

He also touched on the controversy around the number of visitors expected to come to South Africa. Valcke said FIFA never said 450,000 to 500,000 football fans would come to South Africa, he said that number was an estimate put out by the South African authorities. Recently, that number has been significantly downgraded – only 150,000 to 250 000 foreign visitors are expected over the World Cup.

One journalist asked him how FIFA dealt with the negative image they have in South Africa because the football body is viewed as "bullying" and "taking over the country." Valcke was pragmatic, he said FIFA were the "gatekeepers of football" and so they didn’t have to be "nice" all the time.

He said they weren’t taking over the whole of South Africa, "just a little bit of it."

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