Pretoria — Tickets for the opening Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) match between Bafana Bafana and Cape Verde are sold out, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula announced on Wednesday.
"The tickets for Saturday's opening match are sold out in no time because we love football as South Africans," Mbalula told the National Press Club while giving a detailed report on the state of readiness for the 2013 Afcon.
Bafana Bafana will face Cape Verde in the opening match of the tournament on Saturday at the National Stadium before taking on Angola and Morocco in Group A at Moses Mabhida stadium.
The minister appealed to the media to grow the excitement around the Afcon in terms of encouraging people to buy match tickets.
Mbalula said the national team needed to be imbued with goals, but not with mediocrity, adding that the upcoming Afcon was going to be a resounding success.
"The tournament is going to leave behind a tangible feeling of pride amongst all South Africans like in 1996 when the country hosted the tournament. It will leave behind the same feeling that was [experienced] before and after the 2010 FIFA World Cup," he said.
According to the minister, after the final tournament on 10 February, African football will never be the same again. "This tournament will leave a lasting legacy for generations to come."
He said the country boasted 2010 FIFA World Cup infrastructure such as rail, roads, aviation, Information Technology, stadiums and many more organisational advantages.
"Our infrastructure is more than adequate to host the 2013 Afcon tournament as it goes with ten World Cup stadiums to host a tournament of this magnitude.
"We believe the hosting of this football extravaganza will make the tournament less expensive as our infrastructure is still new," he said.
The minister re-emphasised that the country was ready to host the tournament irrespective of the slow pace of the ticketing sales in certain host cities.
He urged the nation to rally behind the national team throughout the tournament. He was hopeful that Bafana Bafana will use this tournament to score more goals.
Chairperson of the Afcon Local Organising Committee (LOC) chief Mwelo Nonkonyana said the excitement of ticket sales is starting to build up.
"In Durban, the provincial government is embarking on a drive to encourage people to buy match tickets, but it is important for all the 16 teams to play great football so that people continue to buy more match tickets," he said.
He said tickets sales were slow in Rustenburg, Mbombela and Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, but he expressed his hope that people will still go out and start buying more match tickets.