FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he can feel the 2009 Confederations Cup “fever” in South Africa ahead of the event’s kick-off with the opening ceremony and first game between South Africa and Iraq at Ellis Park tomorrow.
Earlier this year, Blatter criticised the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for its lack of marketing for the 2010 World Cup and Confederations Cup, but said yesterday at a press conference at Sandton Convention Centre that the problem has been rectified.
“We are now practically in winter time and the fever is over 37°C. And I am happy that the something is being done. It is a kind of a football virus coming in.
“I would suggest that in the next days the virus will also be coming in for the Confederations Cup. The tickets sold is now over 70%, which is more than Germany [in 2005] at the same stage.”
Certainly the Confed Cup fever has been building in Gauteng. Flags and billboards are everywhere and almost every TV seems to be tuned into SuperSport 3, a dedicated 24-hour Confed channel that has been screening replays of Bafana Bafana’s last participation in the event in 1997.
Blatter was asked what message he has to detractors around the world who doubted South Africa’s ability to host the World Cup, now that the country is about to stage Confed.
“From the beginning the media overseas were not at ease by trusting South Africa or Africa to organise the Fifa Soccer World Cup,” the president said. “And why the question mark behind football? Is there not a bit of envy about the World Cup being in Africa?
“And now we are here, because it is not only to honour Africa it’s also a justice to African football.
“South Africa has organised international conferences and sporting events. We trust Africa and we trust the organisation. Now let’s lift up this Confederations Cup in South Africa.”
LOC chief executive Danny Jordaan said LOC’s main objective has to be to fill the stadiums with South Africans for the Confed, more than to target the international market.
“There is a myth in the world that this is actually a cricket and rugby country and I think in the next days you will see that football is by far the overwhelming and most popular sport in this country.”