JOHANNESBURG (AP) — About 700 people pushed and shoved and organizers threatened to shut down a World Cup ticket center as fans scrambled for a last chance to watch the tournament's biggest games — only to discover that FIFA's systems had crashed.
Two hours into Friday's final release, no one had been able to buy any of the 160,000 tickets still available for the world's biggest soccer tournament.
FIFA said ticket service provider Match was experiencing "significant delays" due to technical problems across all sales channels, which include FIFA's own ticket centers as well as local bank branches.
FNB, the bank which acts as a World Cup ticket distributor in South Africa, said FIFA's ticketing system crashed again on Friday morning due to a volume overload.
"This is despite guarantees and promises given to FNB from FIFA's ticketing agent Match, as well as from FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke ... that there would be no further ticketing issues," FNB's 2010 marketing head Vicki Trehaeven said in a statement.
Trehaeven said FNB had no indication of when FIFA's ticketing system will be operational again. She said FNB was "as disappointed as the fans."
Chief organizer Danny Jordaan said he wanted to "sincerely apologize" to the fans, some of whom had been queuing for two days, for Friday's problems.
Valcke said FIFA had demanded a full report from Match.
Earlier, hopeful supporters at FIFA's ticket office in the upscale Johannesburg suburb of Sandton had jostled for position as 90,000 additional tickets, including seats for both semifinals and more than 800 for the July 11 final, were about to be added to the main batch.
People forced their way into the queues, according to fans, and some were pushed up against the doors of the ticket center. Police were present and an official told impatient supporters that they would not be allowed in if they did not calm down. Queues spilled out of the building and down the sidewalk.
Daniel Shalem, an 18-year-old fan from the nearby Melrose suburb, told The Associated Press he had been waiting since 9 p.m. on Thursday night.
"There is chaos here," he said. "It's disorderly. People are pushing in."
FIFA's last ticket release, on April 15, was also hampered by technical problems and long delays and resulted in police being called in to some of the 10 FIFA ticket centers across the country. FIFA finally gave in and made tickets available over the counter in South Africa in the April 15 release, which caused an upsurge in interest from local fans who prefer to buy soccer tickets with cash.
FIFA has said it was worried by poor ticket sales before the over-the-counter release, but now hopes to match sales figures for the last World Cup in Germany — where between 97 and 98 percent of tickets were sold.
Organizers say they have sold 96 percent of the 2.88 million tickets available for the 2010 tournament.