FIFA is investigating whether transport and ticket distribution systems failed after at least 8000 seat-holders failed to attend the match between South Korea and Greece in Port Elizabeth.
The problem appeared to occur for a second straight day yesterday, as another match between two of the tournament's less glamorous sides, Algeria and Slovenia, kicked off in Polokwane at 1.30pm with about one-third of seats empty. Only 31513 people attended South Korea's 2-0 victory on Saturday at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, which holds 42486 spectators for World Cup games.
Fifa had said just 3000 tickets were available on the morning of the match.
"It looked like a lot of people did not show up at the stadium.
"We are investigating this," Fifa spokesman Nicolas Maingot said yesterday.
Before the tournament, Fifa aimed to ensure full stadiums by offering cut-price tickets for matches which proved less attractive to fans in the worldwide sales process.
Host cities were offered group deals to allocate seats among local businesses and public service workers.
Maingot said Fifa helped to pay for bus transport to bring South African fans to the lower-demand games.
"We have been pro-active on that, and we asked for a system to be put in place. Apparently, that has not completely worked," he said. "We are working on this to make sure this is not the case for a potential few others of those games." Fifa said yesterday that 700 unsold tickets were available hours before Algeria and Slovenia played in the 41733-capacity Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Transport has been a difficult issue in the early days of a World Cup that is proving a popular success with host nation fans and visitors. Organising committee officials experienced what they called "challenges" getting 84490 fans to a sold-out Soccer City in Johannesburg on Friday for the opening ceremony and South Africa's first match against Mexico.
World Cup and city officials were working yesterday to create a more efficient transport plan before the stadium hosts the well-supported Netherlands playing Denmark in today's lunchtime kickoff. - Sapa-AP