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African Cup tickets on sale, now to fill stadiums

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) -South Africa was the latest African Cup of Nations host to face the challenge of filling stadiums with the continent's generally poor football fans as tickets for next year's tournament went on sale on Wednesday.

In an attempt to reverse a trend of poor crowds at recent African championships, 2013 organizers kept tickets relatively cheap and easily available having already opted for smaller stadiums to give them a better chance of sellouts.

The last African Cup in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea was hurt by images of empty seats at some games, especially when the home teams weren't playing.

Tickets for South Africa range from the cheapest at $6 up to $24 for the most expensive seats at the final. Supporters could watch the semifinals and final for around $12 for each game and organizers also offered additional discounts of up to 20 percent to fans who buy early for the matches next January and February.

"The ticket pricing strategy was reached looking at the economy of the country and the levels of unemployment, people's disposable income as well as the time that the tournament is taking place," organizing committee chief executive Mvuzo Mbebe said.

There are also worries that the Jan. 19-Feb. 10 tournament could come too soon after the expensive holiday season.

But South Africa still hopes to sell 500,000 tickets for the 32 matches at the 16-team tournament, relying on the combination of affordable prices and easy access while, crucially, hoping to revive the excitement generated by the country's staging of the World Cup two years ago.

South Africa also apparently learnt from the World Cup in 2010 by making sure tickets could be bought at traditional shop outlets as well as online.

At the World Cup, the initial internet-only sales procedure was problematic as the majority of African football fans do not have credit cards or access to the internet and prefer to buy their tickets over the counter.

African Cup games next year will be played at five stadiums, but the country's showpiece 94,000-seat FNB Stadium in Soweto - which was completely renovated for the World Cup - was reserved for the opening game and the final only.

Smaller venues in the northern cities of Rustenburg and Nelspruit and their fellow World Cup stadiums in Durban and Port Elizabeth will host the bulk of the games as South Africa hopes to re-ignite fans' interest following the historic first World Cup on the continent.

However, the Cup of Nations will undoubtedly face challenges getting fans as excited for games involving possible qualifiers like Cape Verde and Central African Republic as they were when Spain, Brazil and England were in town for South Africa's last major football tournament.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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