The first-ever football (soccer) World Cup in Africa be will hosted by South Africa in 2010.  As a tune-up for football's premier event, South Africa is staging the eight-team Confederations Cup.  It features the champions of the six confederations - Spain, Brazil, United States, Iraq, Egypt and New Zealand - plus World Cup champion Italy and host South Africa.  It is giving the host nation a chance to test its readiness for next year's World Cup.  Sepp Blatter, president of the International Football Federation (FIFA), met with the media in Pretoria after the first two rounds of games to assess the tournament.  

There is no doubt that FIFA president Sepp Blatter is disappointed by the number of spectators in the stands to watch some of the world's best players and teams at this Confederations Cup.  While the opening match last Sunday in Johannesburg between host South Africa and Iraq was close to a sell-out, many seats have gone empty for games in Pretoria, Rustenburg and Bloemfontain.

Ticket give-away?

When asked if FIFA might give away free tickets to help fill the stadiums, Blatter said while it is not a principle to give tickets away, FIFA does offer them to those unable to purchase them.  He added having many empty seats should not be an issue for the 2010 World Cup.

"Next year you will not have this problem, because we expect up to 450,000 or 500,000 visitors from the different countries in the world, and the ticket sales for next year's World Cup are already on a good scale," Blatter said.

Though the stadiums have not been filled for this Confederations Cup, you would not know it from the noise at the venues, which has been consistently loud throughout every match.  That's because of the blaring chorus of vuvuzelas, which are plastic horns.

Sepp Blatter says, at least for now, there are no plans to ban them.

"I know that television companies have been a little bit worried.  They have been criticizing these special sounds because they are overlapping their normal commentators sound," Blatter said.  "This is a technical matter.  It's not up to FIFA to go and say, 'Stop now.  Don't make any noise in a football match.'  I can not say that."

Traffic delays fans

Many fans have been delayed getting to their seats in time for the kickoffs because of traffic and road conditions.  Blatter himself experienced some delays en route to the Brazil-United States match.

"You know the traffic problem we have is because they are preparing the roads, so they have all the traffic practically on one lane because they are working for the World Cup," he said. "And I'm sure these problems will be, must be, solved, because during the World Cup there will be more traffic than there is now."

Kudos to FIFA

Blatter said all of the eight teams have, so far, complimented the organizers on a well-run Confederations Cup.

"On the other side, I have to say also visiting the stadia, visiting the cities, before going to the stadia, the general ambiance is very good," Blatter said. "And football, the World Cup - unfortunately they want to call it soccer here, I don't know why; soccer because here is rugby at football stadiums, not soccer ones - so we are satisfied."

Finally, Sepp Blatter is confident that South Africa will be able to have a competitive team by the 2010 World Cup.

"One year they have for the preparation for the team to mature, then I can assure you that this team will be a very good team next year in the World Cup," Blatter said.

Blatter added that it is always good when a host nation progresses far in the tournament to help maintain interest among the home spectators.  But he said it also helps if the quality is good among all of the participating teams.