PSL confident of 'reasonable' crowd for final
The Premier Soccer League were confident on Monday that Saturday's Nedbank Cup final, set for Soccer City, would attract thousands of spectators in spite of the match featuring two teams who hardly drew crowds to their home fixtures.
AmaZulu and Wits, who qualified for the final at the weekend, will meet in a match that will mark the official opening of the World Cup venue, but whether a raucous atmosphere can be expected is a different story altogether.
League officials and sponsors hope to use this match as a precursor to the World Cup, which will kick off on June 11 at the same venue when Bafana Bafana take on Mexico, but getting locals to attend a match between teams who are not that popular could prove to be a challenge.
To compound the PSL's predicament even further, a Super 14 rugby semi-final between the Bulls and the Crusaders will take place a few kilometres from Soccer City at Orlando Stadium, kicking off at 5.05pm. That match was sold out hours after tickets went on sale on Monday.
But PSL chief executive Kjietil Siem was adamant there wouldn't be too many empty seats at the 95000-seat venue, which will also host the World Cup final on July 11.
"We have sold between 35000 and 40000 so far," Siem said on Monday. "We hope to sell more this week.
"I don't think we would have reached that figure, with these teams in the final, had this match been played anywhere else.
"People are interested in being part of the historic opening of Soccer City. We sold tickets way before we knew who was going to be in the final."
Siem defended the PSL's decision to take the final to the biggest stadium in the land without knowing who the finalists would be.
In an unprecedented move, the league announced during the Nedbank Cup launch in April that Soccer City would host the final.
But with crowd-pullers Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates bowing out of the competition early, interest in the tournament has somewhat dissipated.
Mamelodi Sundowns, who also woo reasonable crowds to their matches, bowed out in a semi-final at the weekend, losing to AmaZulu on penalties.
AmaZulu do attract crowds to their home matches, but that support is almost always nonexistent for their games outside kwaZulu-Natal.
Wits, on the other hand, play their home matches at arguably the smallest venue in the country - the 5000-seat BidVest Stadium in Braamfontein - and hardly half-fill it.
Siem is, however, banking on the excitement of the South African public about witnessing the opening of Soccer City.
"We are happy to focus on that - the opening of the stadium. Of course we would have a sellout crowd if some of the top teams had qualified, but we can't dictate or predict who would be in the final."
He added that the PSL, in consultation with the Johannesburg City Council, was still to decide whether to use the park-and-ride facilities to test Soccer City's readiness for the World Cup.
"We are in talks with the city and both clubs and we'll make announcements later this week. We cannot guarantee a capacity crowd, but I'm sure a lot of people are interested in going just to be part of this."
Saturday's R6-million first-prize final will kick off at 3pm. Tickets cost R40 for adults and R10 for children.