Johannesburg — While criticism continues to cloud the organisation of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has given the tournament a stamp of approval, just five days before the opening match in Johannesburg.
Reports of poor ticket sales and processing, and a weak marketing campaign, were stealing media coverage in the build-up to the continental football showpiece, but Caf general secretary Hicham El Amrani was pleased with preparations.
"We are truly grateful and would like to thank the local organising committee (LOC) for the amount of work they have done," Amrani told reporters in Johannesburg on Monday.
"We are delighted and look forward to an exciting event in this country."
The opening game between Bafana Bafana and Cape Verde on Saturday was "sold out", according to Amrani, though further tickets would be made available for the match this week.
Of the half-a-million tickets available for the tournament, 100,000 had not yet been sold.
"Around 400,000 tickets have been sold," Amrani said.
"All tickets available to the public for the opening game at the National Stadium have been sold, and we are working with the LOC to have 3000 to 4000 more tickets on sale for that game in the next 48 hours."
Afcon LOC chief executive Mvuzo Mbebe would not comment on the organising of the tournament, or slow ticket sales, insisting he would only discuss transport concerns.
"We called this press conference to talk about a transport agreement for the tournament," Mbebe said.
"Another briefing will be held later in the week to discuss the tournament as a whole."
The LOC announced a deal with the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) to provide trains and buses for spectators attending the games.
Trains would be utilised in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, while buses would be used in the Eastern Cape, North West and Mpumalanga, to get people in outlying areas to the five host cities - Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit and Rustenburg.
"This milestone agreement with Prasa is a significant step in ensuring that we reach our goal of filling the stadia," Mbebe said.
"The public transport system provided by Prasa will address the majority of the soccer fans who otherwise would have had challenges reaching the stadiums and getting back home."