JOHANNESBURG (AP) — More than 160,000 World Cup tickets are still available with the tournament kickoff just two weeks away, and more than half of those will go on sale Friday, according to FIFA.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke revealed the ticketing status at a ceremony marking the handover of Johannesburg's Ellis Park stadium to World Cup organizers on Thursday.
None of the 64 games are sold out, and FIFA said it would release an extra 90,000 tickets — which were not taken by its various sponsors and affiliates — to the general public on Friday.
Organizers said the latest ticket release would be the last "big inventory available for the public" for Africa's first World Cup. They added there may be unannounced releases during the tournament.
Valcke said "all is nearly perfect" when asked about final World Cup preparations but the high-end category one tickets, which range from $160 to $900, appear to be causing problems.
More than 75,000 category one tickets, unaffordable for the majority of South Africans, are still available.
Valcke said FIFA had set a target of selling 97 to 98 percent of tickets to equal figures at the last World Cup in Germany, and he was hopeful organizers would reach the milestone. FIFA said it has already reached 96 percent sales of the total 2.88 million tickets available for the tournament.
A total of 4,000 tickets in all four categories are available for the opening game, nearly 7,000 tickets for the semifinals, and 861 for the final.
About 360,000 foreign visitors are expected for the tournament, nearly 100,000 less than initial estimates, which makes it unclear where the remaining ticket sales for the more expensive seats will come from.
Tournament organizers' ticket pricing is also believed to have contributed to poor sales on the African continent, where African fans are being asked to pay the same prices as Europeans or Americans. Valcke said less than 40,000 tickets had been sold on the continent outside of South Africa.
"We can definitely talk about a disappointment when we see the number of tickets sold in Africa," Valcke said.
Local organizing committee chief executive Danny Jordaan requested fans to buy more tickets, but also to be less noisy at stadiums and observe safety announcements and protocol.
"The level of noise in the stadium. It is an important matter that when we make an announcement in the stadium everybody must be able to hear it," Jordaan said. "We ask for that particular discipline. We cannot have unmitigated noise levels in the midst of the singing of national anthems. These are serious issues that we need to address."
Boisterous local fans are well-known for producing constant noise during games, helped by their plastic vuvuzela trumpets.
FIFA denied suggestions last year at the Confederations Cup that it may ban the vuvuzelas — which produce a loud humming noise — at the World Cup.