Back in late 2001, I got an email from an old soccer friend who was trying to land tickets for World Cup games in South Korea.
He was asking everyone he knew to give him their passport number which he would then use, along with their names of course, to try and snag some seats out of the lottery process. I politely declined but I later heard that he entered something like 20 requests and four of them came through, after which he kept the ones he wanted and traded the others for tickets to other games.
Made out pretty well, all in all.
(Didn't make up for the $200k and the marriage that owning a USISL Pro Division team cost him back in the 90's, but that's a tale for another day)
I thought of my freind the other day while reading a story about four young British lads who were planning a trip to South Africa 2010. All four of them sent in ticket requests in the hope that maybe one of them would snag a set.
Imagine their surprise when they discovered that all four of them got all the tickets they requested. They now hold, between the four of them, 112 tickets for seven matches.
England used to require you to join their supporters group and acumulate thousands of points by attending home and away qualifiers and then survive a drawing to get their hands on a few seats. Now they're reporting that "everyone" who applies for tickets, regardless of their points, will get however many they want.
South Africa's estimate of 40,000 to 50,000 British tourists descending on the finals now appears to be something of a fantasy.
And it's not just England; in Germany no less a figure than FRANZ BECKENBAUER is slamming FIFA, as only 6700 of the 21,000 tickets allocated to the DFB have been sold.
The Dutch are reportedly in a similar situation; sitting on piles of unsold, unwanted tickets, with supply "far exceeding demand".
What may be even more startling is that not even the six African nations who are sending teams to South Africa are anywhere near selling out their allotment.
Indeed, Chief SA Organizer and Blatter stooge Danny Jordaan is complainging that THEY CAN'T EVEN SELL BAFANA BAFANA TICKETS to the locals.
Just yesterday they announced that tickets which have previously been available only via the internet and at a particular bank, will now be sold at lots and lots of other places as well. Perhaps this is in response to the fact that in a desperately poor country a lot of people don't have computers or bank accounts, but it ignores the problem of, as one local commeter pu it, "it's still a matter of choosing between buying bread and buying football tickets".
(For FIFA's Cloud Coocoo Land opinion on all of this, check out THIS HEADLINE FROM THEIR WEBSITE.)
So the question is: what's the problem?
Since most of the lotteries and ticket offerings began well before the recent tragedy in Angola, it's hard to blame that particular incident, although it hasn't helped.
It's not that people don't get that there's a difference between Angola and South Africa; their lectures to the contrary, pretty much everybody understands that.
Still, you have to remeber that Sepp Blatter, whose main mission in life is now winning a Nobel Peace Prize, has long seen his efforts to promote football in Africa as the key element in that campaign.
As a result, the man has barely stopped chattering about "The Year of Africa" long enough to pocket a decent bribe. FIFA's entire program for over a year has consisted of tournaments on that continent, and not one of them has been without problems. The U20's in Egypt last summer, the 17's in Nigeria, of course the Confederations Cup, and at every stop Blatter has yammered endlessly about how it's all about Africa.
But when there's a riot in Egypt over the Algeria result, or when Nigerian officials tell teams not to bring fan contingents because they can't protect them or when a team bus is machine gunned in Togo FIFA assures us that these are all isolated incidents that have "nothing to do with Africa".
And when they claim that the Confederations Cup last summer was an example of how splendidly South Africa can prevent crime, we need only look as far as Reuters' chief football editor, who was robbed at gunpoint on the streets of Johannesburg.
By uniformed traffic policemen.
So while it is indeed unfair to paint an entire continent with a broad brush, FIFA itself is the one holding the paint can most of the time. All this football is a "celebration of Africa", but when bad stuff happens it has nothing to do with Africa at all.
Trying to have it both ways just isn't working.
Still, if it was just security, maybe they could hire the Chinese army to come in and knock heads or something. Goodness knows that at the Beijing Olympics they proved that they know how to secure the streets.
But the second problem is the costs, which only begin with the extortionate price of tickets.
Flights are proving to be outrageously expensive, hotels (knowing that there is an enormous shortage in rooms) have jacked up their prices, local transportation will be a nightmare at best (travel between cities is expected to be next to impossible as they simply do not have the capacity to move huge numbers of people in a short amount of time; even Germany had some problems in that area but, being Germany, they got it done somehow. South Africa doesn't have anything like that kind of capacity).
Again, don't bother posting your outrage here. Tell it to all the German and Dutch and English fans who aren't buying tickets. Maybe all their fears, every one of them, are unfounded. Maybe this will be the safest and most comfortable and cheapest World Cup in history.
But nobody is convinced and FIFA is running out of time to do any more convincing.
How bad is it really?
Here's THE INCOMPARABLE ANDREW JENNINGS:
Unofficial World Cup ticket brokers, approved agents, black market operators and national associations are all struggling to sell nearly one million unwanted seats for first round matches.
One dealer in the unofficial ticket and travel market said, ‘The word is already on the street, the event is a bomb, it’s a bust, it’s on the floor, the unsafe atmosphere and the cost of travel and hotels has made this an awful event to sell.’
Another broker told me, ‘They talk about 450,000 fans coming. I predict between 125,000 to 150,000. This is turning into a huge disaster for FIFA and the South African organizers.
What about the USA?
Sales are even more disappointing in America where 79,000 tickets have been bought on the Internet by brokers and travel agents – who are now reported to be trying to re-sell at face value – just to dump them.
Of course none of this has stopped FIFA from MAKING A $700 MILLION HOSPITALITY CONTRACT with a vendor partly owned by someone with the oddly coincidental name Phillippe Blatter (Sepps' nephew) who conveniently has his headquarters across the street from FIFA, in the offices that ISL had to vacate when they were found guilty of passing out over $100 million in bribes to FIFA officials back in 2001.
Because of course no matter who wins or loses, at FIFA it's business as usual.