18th December, 2012
With about 30 days to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, the Local Organising Committee, LOC, of the tournament are battling desperately ahead of time to ensure that the stadia to be used for the tournament are filled up through out the tournament.
With no doubt over their ability to host African nations but little of the bursting energy the country experienced before the 2010 World Cup is conspicuously lacking this time around.
Fears over empty seats and the state of the pitch of the opening and closing matches at the stadia also linger.
Stadia, roads and hotels have been ready since the World Cup over two-and-a-half years ago.
In October organisers said they would sell 400,000 tickets by the end of the year; they had struggled to reach 50,000 by the start of December.
An empty Royal Bafokeng Stadium seems very probable in northern mining town Rustenburg, or in Port Elizabeth on the south coast.
But then thousands of seats were empty during matches at the previous tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon at the start of the year.
The Soccer City pitch is being replanted with hybrid grass and rested until January after international concerts damaged the surface.
Outrage however trumps fear over its readiness because the stadium will host a concert of American rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers a week before the final on 10 February.
Earlier this year South Africa took over the event from Libya, who withdrew following political turmoil during the Arab Spring.
The country with the continent’s best sporting facilities and infrastructure was the logical choice to step in at short notice.
But filling stadia is another story during an economic crunch on a continent where travel is exorbitantly expensive.
“I have no doubt we will have more than 90,000 people when we host the opening and final matches,” insisted Soccer City marketing manager Louis Tshakoane.
But some local fans aren’t overly worried over the lack of hype.
“We know it’s happening. There’s nothing but you know, it’s Africa,” said Rolf Wilhelmsen, 50, taking photos with his family at Soccer City.
“It’s all subdued. It’s simmering below the surface at the moment. But at the start of January it’ll be bang! It’s full on.”
For 28-year-old Bheki Khumalo it’s about national pride.
“In the World Cup we proved we can host. So hosting the Afcon makes me proud.”