Cape Town — Despite budget limitations and a tight schedule, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) 2013 is confident South Africa will pull off a successful tournament.
A three-man LOC delegation, including chairperson Advocate Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana and CEO Mvuzo Mbebe, on Tuesday briefed Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Sport and Recreation on the country's readiness to host the championship to decide Africa's premier football nation.
"There may be areas where we'll have to tighten the belt. But I can assure the country that we are going to do a good job," said Mbebe.
One such measure was that LOC Board members were not taking salaries or allowances.
Mbebe told the committee that the LOC was acutely aware of the enormous responsibility it carried.
"We hosted the World Cup (Fifa 2010 World Cup) and got nine out of ten. We don't want less than that for Afcon."
According to a summary of its budget, the LOC expects an income of R335 200 860, of which an amount of R205 043 200 represented grants from various government departments. Total expenses were forecast to total R334 667 721, with a surplus of R534 139 projected.
The Afcon tournament starts at Soccer City on Saturday, 19 January 2013, when Bafana Bafana will face Cape Verde in the opening match.
Mbebe said the LOC had set itself some goals such as getting the nation behind the tournament. Its message was 'Full Stadiums'.
"We need everybody's support to do everything in our power to make sure that the stadiums are full."
Tickets for the competition went on sale in September. Sales have been brisk.
"The response from the public has been phenomenal to a certain extent. We are not doing too badly," Mbebe said.
In the first phase of the sales drive, LOC had anticipated that 10 000 tickets would be sold. But a total of 19 966 tickets were snapped up by fans. Currently, between 1 200 and 1 500 tickets were being sold daily.
Buoyed by the manner in which soccer fans were buying tickets, Mbebe was optimistic that by 20 December, a total of 350 000 tickets, or 70 percent of all tickets, would have been sold to fans.
Asked how Bafana Bafana's performance would affect ticket sales, he said that the LOC was encouraging fans to support the national team as South Africans, but also to support teams playing in each of the host cities.
He said attendance in Durban might be affected if South Africa was knocked out of the competition in the quarterfinals.
The portfolio committee chairman, Richard Mdakane, said: "We hope that Bafana Bafana won't let us down. It will be important for Bafana to win it. All South Africans will be happier generally if they see their team win."
Mbebe said unlike World Cup 2010, teams taking part will be based in the cities that they have chosen as their bases until they are knocked out of the competition.
In an effort to thwart corruption, referees would be secluded in a hotel near Pretoria, "where nobody will have access to them".
Referees would leave this venue escorted by security forces a day before match day.
"It's a credibility and security issue," said Mbebe.
Enthusiasm was not only big among fans, but volunteers had also shown their support. A call for volunteers to help during the tournament was expected to be answered by 5 000, but 26 000 people responded.
The committee was assured that safety and security was a priority.
The tournament will end on 10 February 2013.