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Meet the luckiest fan in the world

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Piers Edwards | 15:46 UK time, Friday, 16 April 2010

While scuffles broke out at South Africa's ticketing centres and football fans (including myself) grew irritated at yesterday's computer ticketing collapse, leaving many empty-handed, one man sat exceedingly pretty.

He hadn't needed to sleep overnight on the streets of Cape Town nor Johannesburg - where one devoted couple hired a hotel room near a Fifa centre so they could tag-team for a 20-hour marathon that eventually yielded two much-coveted tickets for the final.

Nor had he encountered an unwelcome burst of pepper spray as police took drastic action in Pretoria to control the ticketing frenzy.

For Thulani Ngcobo already had his ticket for the final, and the semis, and the two quarters: in fact, cutting to the chase, he has tickets for over half the World Cup matches - courtesy of winning a sponsor's competition last year.

Thulani NgcoboWorld Cup ticket winner Thulani Ngcobo

With his crown came the chance to make history for the football-daft Kaizer Chiefs fan will be attending 38 of the World Cup's 64 matches - taking in all the groups and stadiums as he watches the equivalent of a Premier League side's championship season in a month.

"I feel like the luckiest man in the whole world," says the smiley asset controller, 29. "This is a dream come true for everyone. Breaking this record is going to be as easy as shooting a butterfly with an AK47!"

That's probably not as easy as it sounds: nor will be breaking the record - even if there isn't actually one to beat since no one had previously applied to the Guinness Book of Records, who've since set the tally at 20 (please step forward if you've been to more!).

But if Thulani is to make his mark, he'll be wary of long half-time queues for the toilet and the impending traffic gridlock because he can't miss a minute of action. Not that he'd want to anyway. "I can't wait to see Lionel Messi's magic tricks. He's the best ever! But I'm most excited about Bafana Bafana's opener against Mexico - more than the final."

Yet the real bonus for Thulani is not that a man who spends his own money following Chiefs home and away will be being paid for, but that he didn't have to rely on Fifa's ticketing system. "Before winning the competition, I tried to buy tickets online but the connection was so bad I couldn't apply - and it was the same for many friends."

Many believe the over-the-counter availability came too late for it meant South Africa's traditional - i.e. less wealthy - fans would be left with the scraps. And if European sales had been on par, the 500,000 tickets available yesterday would have been far less.

A quarter of that tally was exclusively reserved for South Africans, at just $19 a ticket, and given that, why couldn't a similar number of tickets have been set aside in each preceding phase?

"This is a learning experience and when Fifa goes to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, another developing country, one would expect them to introduce it earlier," World Cup organiser Danny Jordaan admitted at a ticketing centre in northern Joburg.

Outside lay a scene somewhere between a park picnic and a disaster relief zone, with all the colours of the rainbow nation sitting in camping chairs, sleeping under blankets, staring vacant after long hours outside or simply chewing the cud or playing cards - with the preceding evening's barbeque charcoals having long burnt out.

As if to underline previous purchasing difficulties, with many here having neither internet access nor a bank account, one woman had US$14,000 to splash on tickets. Many were buying for their entire families and I've never heard the phrase 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunity' so often.

South Africans have now snapped up over a million tickets, but the teams they're supporting make for interesting reading. A survey last month found that while 81% of black South Africans will follow Bafana Bafana above any other side, that figure drops to 50% for whites. Instead, these fans are supporting Brazil first, sometimes England next - ahead of their own nation.

"If you consider that less than 10% of white South African adults support local soccer, the fact that almost 50% will support Bafana Bafana must be seen as a positive trend," says Dave Sidenberg, whose company questioned 2,400 adults for the survey.

Meanwhile, a handful in the queues were concerned for their fellow Africans.

"The sadness is that they won't be coming because they don't have credit cards either. It's the same for our lower-class citizens: most football fans are labourers, working long hours, so how can they buy a ticket without a day off? It's not fair," said accountant Wiseman Cele, 32. "These tickets have come too late. And since many Africans don't have internet facilities, Fifa's dream of bringing the World Cup to the people is not going to happen."

Ticket queue in Cape TownFans in Cape Town queue patiently for World Cup tickets

That said, Fifa has created a fund of 120,000 tickets to be given to locals, including 40,000 workers who built the stadiums. And the numbers for the competing African nations are sizeable - especially when I recall the 22 Senegalese I counted at a World Cup match in South Korea.

Fifa says 9,000 tickets have been sold to Ghanaians, 6,000 apiece to Cameroonians and Ivorians while Nigerians and Algerians are taking around 5,000 - but considering that some estimate 100,000 Nigerians to be living here, the Super Eagles can certainly expect further support.

Fifa could not provide ticket sales for non-competing African nations but they're seemingly coming in dribs and drabs, not just from across the continent but the diaspora as well.

One fan who will be impossible to miss is Congolese Dikembe Mutombo, the recently-retired NBA basketballer, who considers it a 'gift' to be bringing his children to an African World Cup.

"I don't think I've met any African overseas who hasn't said they're coming to the World Cup," says the 7ft 2in star. "Nobody wanted to be asked in 10-20 years: 'Did you see that game? Were you home?' In DR Congo, people are talking about driving because it's easy to fly to Lubumbashi (in the south) and then jump on the highway through to Johannesburg."

Now praise for governments and multi-nationals is seldom heard but Africa's most enthusiastic football fans would be hard-pushed to follow their favourite team without them, for the overwhelming majority lack the financial independence to follow a team at a World Cup otherwise.

As seasoned Nations Cup watchers will know, the number of visiting fans is minimal but if their backers weren't paying for them to be there, that tally could be zero: so thanks to them, Africa-based fans are coming in small numbers (45 from Uganda, 62 from Mauritius etc. etc.).

Obviously, these financial restrictions are not just an African problem. At Germany 2006, some England fans supported themselves through the cashback earned by returning empty plastic glasses after matches while despite being Colombia's most famous fan, 'El Cole' spent much of the 1990 World Cup sleeping on Italian park benches (to give just two examples).

Last week, a 39-year-old Serb started trekking to South Africa. "I'm walking to South Africa, but will hitch-hike and take public transport when possible," said Sasa Jovic, who set off draped in a Serbia flag and with just a back-pack and world map for company. "I'll travel via Bulgaria, Turkey, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and Botswana, and hope the team gives me plenty to cheer about."

Travelling 10,000 miles and awaiting footballing miracles are concepts Thulani shares, but that's where the similarities end - for the Kaizer Chiefs fan's World Cup concerns are wholly relative. Namely, the horror at having to sit, rather than stand, throughout 90 minutes.

"That's going to annoy me!"


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    And I thought I had it sorted with the first 2 weeks booked off work.

  • Comment number 3.

    You sure that's not Usain Bolt in disguise?

  • Comment number 4.


  • Comment number 5.

    Firstly, @alexsongisbetterthanmessi - you are a daft one aren't you. Why has this 'First' thing begun appearing on many of the blogs now? Who actually cares? you get zero respect and zero reward to contribute properly or disappear.

    To the article, it is about time FIFA started selling reasonably priced tickets to EVERYONE, not just supporters of the home nation. I know, market forces/supply and demand blah blah blah. The fact is, tickets for a WC match should cost exactly the same as any other match at the same stadium. I heard that some tickets for the final were around £500! And this is official prices, not black market prices. There is simply no excuse for this and all football supporters across the world should have the chance to buy tickets at a reasonable price on a first come first served basis.

  • Comment number 6.

    Good on him.

    Re most games attended at a World Cup though, I'm reminded of 2002 where at seemingly every game, there was an England/West Ham flag at the front of the stand opposite the camera around the centre circle. Always wondered how they managed to do that...

  • Comment number 7.

    At the 2006 World Cup Franz Beckenbauer flew to almost every single match via his private helicopter. I believe he only missed the 8 group games were held at the same time as another match. It is possible that he missed another one or two but otherwise I think he holds the record!

  • Comment number 8.

    So FIFA is aligning with a person who likes to kill harmless creatures in a country already riddled with senseless murders.

  • Comment number 9.

    comparethemackem What a hand wringing,tree hugging liberal you are,get a life pal.I don't think for one minute this chap actually shoots butterflies with an AK47 do you?He was just making an analogy.You don't really believe he does that?Do you?

  • Comment number 10.

    what a lucky man. I think this guy must have spent quite a large wad of bills to get these coveted paper. I have never seen a game on the spot. TV and internet is my best way to watch the game. If the game is hold in Europe, I have to wake up in the middle of the night or the morning of the next day. It is terrible. I wish one day I could watch game the time as you.

  • Comment number 11.

    8. At 01:24am on 17 Apr 2010, comparethemackem wrote:

    So FIFA is aligning with a person who likes to kill harmless creatures in a country already riddled with senseless murders.


    My educated guess is that the butterfly and the AK47 are metaphorical ! Bit like the straw that broke the camel's back or the neddle in the haystack ... Maybe someone does hide tiny neddles in harmless haystacks just to annoy tailors and farmers ?!

    Oh dear, oh dear.

    Btw, what a lucky guy the competition winner is - I for one would hope he has some kind of security to get him around the tournament.

  • Comment number 12.

    I can only look on in envy, good luck to Mr Ngcobo and I for one hope a very normal man thoroughly enjoys this record for world cup games attended!

  • Comment number 13.

    Quite day only 2 bites.

  • Comment number 14.

    Wow, another butterfly shooter - I thought I was the only one. Pesky things they are, rid the world of them I say. I'll come over and take on your shifts while you are watching the games as I heard the buuterflies are bigger over there and easier to hit.

    Well done mate - good to hear someone won a great prize.

    Ps. Can I borrow your AK47 - I am not sure they will let me bring my blunderbuss into the country.

  • Comment number 15.

    What a lucky guy!! And I haven't been able to find a hotel in Johanesburg to attend only 7 games. He has a great fortune in his hands. I want to see a picture of Thulani in every game. I don't know why I have the feeling that that is not going to happen.

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm more intrigued about the man who will walk to South Africa. Talk about dedication!

  • Comment number 17.

    #7 - good spot. I did ask those involved with Thulani's bid about Beckenbauer, but was reliably informed that as he arrived for some games late and left others early his tally of matches didn't count. There certainly doesn't seem to be a hard-and-fast record at present, but it seems there will be one to beat (and a fun one too) come 12 July.

  • Comment number 18.

    Ahh shooting butterfleis with an AK47, brings back memories of when i used to shoot fish in a barrel. to make it harder I added water and let them swim around.
    Go enjoy your world cup mate and if you've got time think of comparethemackem standing in his pulpit breaching ballacks to no one but himself....Muppet!

  • Comment number 19.

    holding a AK47 gives me butterflies

  • Comment number 20.

    Thanks for the blog entry.

    A few things:

    1. A South African who cannot afford R140 for a ticket should probably not be attending any matches and should rather be focused on more pressing issues e.g. food for their family.

    The FIFA Fan Fest are highly likely to be almost as exciting as the stadium, and they are free. In Cape Town, the Fan Fest is adjacent to the Central Station.

    2. There is glass half empty and glass half full:
    Half Empty: 355,000 still to be sold in 8 weeks
    Half Full: 145,000 in a few days already sold, 2.35 million of 2.7 million now sold.

    Whether we like it or not,a match like e.g. New Zealand vs. Slovakia is just not going to sell out.

    The LOC has already broke-even. (i.e. last month) Any additional sales translates into profit.
    MATCH has broke even.
    FIFA have made record revenues up to $3.4 billion for a World Cup cycle. Germany was around $2.3 billion.

    The big legacy is the spending on infrastructure of close to R40 billion. Just the start of the R850 billion infrastructure spending planned until 2012/2013.

  • Comment number 21.

    Got my ticket for NZ v Slovakia before the rush!! If Guinness book of records is looking for a guy who has attended the most WC games at a tournament, then a certain Mr Paddy Walsh I met in SA last year at the Confeds gets my vote. He saw 31 out of 32 teams in Germany in all the stadiums - and in 2002 he saw all 32 teams in all the stadiums. He'll be there again in SA - Good Luck Paddy!!

  • Comment number 22.

    AK-47? Butterfly?

    what the hell is he talking about? and what possessed the author to stick that quote in?

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi all! Ngcobo2010 here(The MTN Last Fan Standing)! Thanx for your nice comments. I'm looking forward to attend 38 2010 WC games so that I can be on Guinness World Records!
    If you want to follow my story/jeorney during the WC, you can log on or follow me on

  • Comment number 24.

    #18,19 & 22. Do not take the 'AK47' matter serious! It was just an example which implies that I'm going to break this World Record very easy...

  • Comment number 25.

    I have tickets to 9 matches. Hoping to make it 10 with USA vs Slovenia, but this match occurs on the day I arrive from abroad.
    If all things goto plan :-

    USA vs Slovenia
    Ghana vs Australia
    Brazil vs Ivory Coast
    Nigeria vs South Korea
    Germany vs Ghana
    Paraguay vs New Zealand
    R16 at Port Elizabeth
    R16 at Cape Town
    QF at Soccer City
    QF at Ellis Park

  • Comment number 26.

    My goal was to goto all 9 stadiums, but logistically I can only make it to 7. Could have stretched it 8.

  • Comment number 27.

    Blinding, so where I have to pay thousends of pounds to the FIFA fat cats for match tickets (cheapest tickets are over £50 just for group phases, £250 for a "cheap" final ticket), get ripped off for hotel rooms and pay over the odds for travel this fella gets more for free...

    Also FIFA only allow you to get tickets for a maximum of 7 games, wonder if they are aware he's breaking their rules????



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