Let's spread the message
Sport24 columnist Tumo Mokone (File)
A new business venture has seen me spend more time in my home town of Tembisa in the past month than I have done in all the past three years. In between business I have managed to initiate discussion around the two crucial FIFA tournaments the country is scheduled to host. Many locals are aware of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, but the inquiry about the Confederations Cup sounds like a trick question.
This is shocking, to say the least, considering Tembisa is only a bicycle ride from OR Tambo International Airport, South Africa’s gateway to the world. Kick-off to the Confederations Cup is just two months away and yet there are no publicity materials in the town through which the teams and multitudes of international fans will arrive.
Of course all the information about the tournaments, including ticketing, is available in the media almost on daily basis. There is a crucial missing X factor about the whole marketing strategy for the two events. My own investigation shows the publicity drive urgently needs community-based forums.
These can be achieved through gatherings like community meetings, sports event and other occasions which attract people and offer an opportunity to initiate discussion.
The latter include stokvels and religious services. Can there be anything wrong with the priest reminding his congregation that the deadline for buying Confederations Cup is approaching fast?
Local municipalities must chip in and organise road-shows, not only to spread the message about the tickets, but to also position their areas as ideal alternative tourism stops for local and foreign football fans. I tried in vain to establish whether there will be a fan park for the football-mad town of Tembisa. If nothing is being planned to raise the vibe for the Confederations Cup in such communities, then what would inspire the interest in the World Cup next year?Spread the message
The biggest responsibility, however, lies with the football people. Who is better positioned to spread the message about the Confederations Cup than the football fans themselves? Supporters have functioning structures and they meet on regular basis. Their meetings should be where strategies to draw in other soccer lovers are formulated.
The biggest Bafana Bafana supporter, Freddie “Saddam” Maake, is a Tembisa resident, and he sure knows how to spread the message. All he and his lieutenants need is material support from the relevant authorities.
Virtually all eight nations that will be campaigning here in the June event are expected to qualify for the World Cup next year. The message is not loud enough that full strength Brazil, Spain and Italy will be playing for two weeks. Imagine superstars such as Fernando Torres and Kaka – and other attractive teams such as the US and Egypt – breathing our air, drinking our water and sleeping in our beds.
Given such a line-up, this edition of the Confederations Cup should be able to sell itself. But “normal circumstances” do not apply in a country where fans are accustomed to moving late to buy tickets, many times as late as match day. Last week at the Griffons stadium in Welkom, hundreds, if not thousands, of soccer fans were still queuing to buy tickets when the Bloemfontein Celtic v Golden Arrows match started.
The chaos around the stadium was compounded by latecomers who had pre-booked their seats. Agitated by the slow movement into the stadium, the fans, with tickets in their hands, frantically tried to push their way in. As a result, the game had to be stopped twice as security personnel tried to keep order.
Old habits die hard indeed, and bad ones are doubly stubborn. Local soccer authorities must completely do away with the selling of tickets at the stadium on match day. Fans without tickets must be kept as far away as possible from the venue as they are often up to mischief.
The loudest message out there at this stage, however, should be the purchase of tickets for the Confederations Cup. According to FIFA earlier this week, only 200 000 applications have so far been made for a total of 640 000 tickets. This tournament is a dress rehearsal to the 2010 World Cup; it will be bad for South Africa’s image if it’s going to be played in front of empty stadiums. Tumo writes exclusively for Sport24. Disclaimer:
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