Femi Solaja with agency reports
The South African Football Association (SAFA) has contracted hugely-popular hip-hop star, AKA, to help attract fans to fill up the 94,000-capacity FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday as Bafana Bafana clash with Nigeria’s Super Eagles in an AFCON 2019 qualifying game.
The calabash-shaped FNB Stadium in South West Township (Soweto) area of Johannesburg was shunned by Bafana fans a fortnight ago when only 7,300 tickets were sold when Seychelles took on the home team at the arena.
It is an apparent move to prevent a repeat of this that SAFA has contracted the hip-hop star to spice up entertainment on Saturday when Bafana and Super Eagles go to ‘war’ in what has been aptly tagged ‘Grudge Battle.’
According to South African daily newspaper, Sowetan, the hip-hop star will provide pre-match entertainment inside the arena to whet fans’ appetite.
SAFA is also believed to be worried that grudge match may even have more Nigerian in attendance because of high presence of Nigerian population in Johannesburg and neighbouring cities.
The paper also reported that “this crunchy match against the old enemy and the possibility of being dominated in the stands by Nigerians in South Africa’s own home game if the ticket sales do not pick up in the coming days is what is making SAFA to be planning this entertainment option to woo fans to the FNB Stadium.
SAFA wants South Africans to show the same zeal they usually display in matches between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates on Saturday.
Stadium Management South Africa (SMSA) Chief Executive, Jacques Grobbelaar, confirmed the low turnout in the Seychelles game to SowetanLIVE on Tuesday while at the same time urging South Africans to buy tickets and support their team.
“Of course we are worried by the low numbers‚” he said.
“We are playing against one of the best teams on the continent and our biggest rivals.
“There is no greater game to go out there with friends and family and enjoy‚ but at the moment the numbers are not looking good.
“We are selling about 2,000 a day which is not bad and our projections are that we will reach about 20, 000 by Friday.
“We have capped the tickets at 41, 000 and we hope that there is a sudden surge later in the week because we want South Africans to be there and cheer the boys.
“This is an important game for the country.”
Bafana’s low ticket sales are in contrast to the Soweto derby Telkom Knockout semi-final between Chiefs and Pirates that was sold out in about two hours last week.
Bafana coach Baxter said he was hoping for a good crowd to intimidate Eagles after defying the odds to beat the resurgent Nigeria 2-0 away from home in the corresponding fixture in Uyo last June.
“When we went to Nigeria it was packed for that match‚” Baxter said.
“As you know they are very partisan and hostile.
“We would like to think that they will get the same treatment when they come to South Africa.
“I don’t think it matters if the public at large think that we played well in our last game or we were great when we played Nigeria away or Paraguay (Bafana’s Nelson Mandela Challenge opponents at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Tuesday next week) is an interesting team one coming up.
“This Nigeria game is big‚ the reputation is big and I hope that there will be South Africans who will be there and want Bafana Bafana to win.”
Stadium Management chief executive Jacques Grobbelaar said they are focused on encouraging and getting South Africans from all walks of life to get behind the national football team.
“The match is almost upon us as both Bafana Bafana and Nigeria are preparing for this important match‚” he said.
“SMSA is ready to welcome our national team back to the home of soccer and we are behind Bafana Bafana and coach Stuart Baxter in their qualification campaign.
“Providing the infrastructure and logistical support required is only one-part of our focus ahead of such an important match,” he explained.
SMSA said the stadium would open at 11am on Saturday with AKA providing pre-match entertainment from 2.45pm.