Huge queues for World Cup tickets

A pensioner died in the queue today as thousands of South Africans queued overnight to grab 500,000 World Cup soccer tickets being sold for cash for the first time.

Police said the 64-year-old man suffered an apparent seizure as he waited in a queue in central Cape Town. He was number 565 in the line.

The Cape Town queue, like others around the country, began on Wednesday afternoon as South Africans rushed to get World Cup tickets, some of them for the final on July 11. Thousands of excited fans waited patiently in line, some blowing vuvuzelas, the noisy trumpets which are a fixture of South African matches.

Around 120,000 of the tickets are available to South Africans for $20, the lowest price at a World Cup for many years.

Ticket sales in South Africa had been below expectations until recently and soccer's governing body FIFA was criticised for selling them in a complex system over the internet which was alien to poor black soccer fans accustomed to getting tickets for cash on match days.

Officials acknowledged mistakes had been made and launched a new system of sales through ticketing offices and supermarkets today, hoping to sell out the tournament after disappointing overseas sales and returned tickets.

"I'm going to kiss my ticket when I get it," said one man called Godfrey at the Maponya Mall in South Africa's biggest black township, Soweto. He did not want to give his name because he was skipping work to stand in line.

"The last time I waited in a line like this was when I voted for Mandela," he said, recalling the elections won by Nelson Mandela at the end of apartheid in 1994.

FIFA had previously said the final was sold out, but on Wednesday announced 300 late tickets would be released for the biggest match in world football.

"I'm just waiting in anticipation," said Marlin Fisher, training to be a church minister. "I would love for South Africa to go all the way and I will also put my money on the Brazilian team."

Tickets are still well above normal prices for top-level football in South Africa.

Even the special cheap tickets are more than five times the cost of normal top class games and costs escalate drastically in higher categories for better seats and after the first-round group phase. Tickets for premier seats at the final cost $900.

Demand in South Africa had initially been sluggish but the most recent phase saw locals snap up 85 percent of the 240,000 tickets sold between February and the beginning of this month.

FIFA said last week 2.2 million tickets had been sold for the tournament, which kicks off on June 11.

A few months ago FIFA officials complained there was not enough atmosphere in South Africa around the continent's first World Cup but the over-the-counter sales seemed to have changed that with excitement building rapidly.