Many South Africans watch hometown World Cup from a distance

theGRIO REPORT - This is no surprise and a common obstacle to the 40 percent who are unemployed, and the 45 percent of South Africans who live under the poverty line...

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – On the anniversary of the June 16 youth uprising of the 1976, a sea of green and yellow South Africans huddled in Fan Festival Park in Soweto to not only commemorate the day that 20,000 students marched and lost their lives in protest of the government mandate that instruction will be delivered in Afrikaans, but to root for their team in the 2010 World Cup.

But while all eyes were glued to the game, and spirits rang high in anticipation — some could not help but feel separated from the real action in the stadium, as they watch the game in a field on a large panel flat-screen.

These fans were in just one of the 16 different fan parks FIFA created to give millions of South Africans who do not have access to tickets or televisions a chance to watch the games that are taking place in their own country.

The fan parks seems to be a popular place to view the games. According to FIFA, nearly 300,000 soccer supporters celebrated together in front of the jumbo screens opening day. But for many, this was their only option in watching the major sporting event.

17-year-old William Malindisa, a Sowetan student, said he was excited to about the World Cup coming to South Africa, but wont be able to watch for one simple reason.

“I tried to buy tickets, but I didn’t have enough money to afford them,” said Malindisa. “They were not affordable.”

That is no surprise and a common obstacle to the 40 percent who are unemployed, and the 45 percent of South Africans who live under the poverty line. That means the chances of the 18 million, out of the 45 million people who live in South Africa who want to watch the games live in the stadium are slim.

“When I’m starting thinking of buying tickets,” said 32 year-old car washer, Teboho Leonaid, “I then think about buying food at home.”

One of the three million World Cup tickets prices can range from 80 US dollars to the high thousands, when the average South African earns equivalent of $200 per month.

FIFA boasts on its website, “tickets are especially aimed at fans and local residents in and around the host cities. They’ll have the first option on the best seats and can rest assured that they’ll have the opportunity to see all the World Cup games which are hosted in their city…” But 28 year-old Teboho Mulaudli, believes their claims are faulty

“For Europeans it is a good price,” said the newspaper seller. “But in terms of currency for South Africans — the prices are just too high. We want to be there to support South Africa, we want to show those people who think of Africa as a dark continent, to see this is a bright hour.”

Mulaudli should know, he was one of the students on the fateful day when students stood their ground with stones against armed police officers.

“I fought for this day, so the world can see and treat us as people — as living human beings,” he added. But for Mulaudli, that painful memory will be translated to joy, as he holds a ticket to one of the much coveted final games.