World Cup: Argentina soccer fans flocking to South Africa

Expect Argentina to have plenty of fans at the World Cup after the country bought more tickets to the tournament than any other in South America. (Pablo Cozzalio/AFP/Getty Images)

Expect Argentina to have plenty of fans at the World Cup after the country bought more tickets to the tournament than any other in South America. (Pablo Cozzalio/AFP/Getty Images)

By Ezequiel Vinacour for Infosurhoy.com — 02/06/2010

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – World Cup ticket orders from Argentina have surpassed those from any other country in South America, as it bought 25,118 tickets, according to FIFA, international soccer’s governing body.

Brazil has bought the second-highest number of tickets on the continent for the world’s largest soccer tournament at 18,179, according to the Argentine daily La Nación.

It is expected between 4,000 and 5,000 Argentines will travel across the Atlantic Ocean to cheer for Lionel Messi and Co. as they compete for their third World Cup title, according to Argentina’s embassy in South Africa. It’s also estimated La Albiceleste’s fans will spend between US$8,000 and US$10,000 to support their team during the month-long tournament, which begins on June 11, according to various Argentine travel agents.

“When it comes to costs, you need to consider the number of games you want to see, the ground transportation to get from one venue to another, and keep in mind that the prices vary according to when you buy your airline and stadium tickets,” said Mauro Spagnolo, a 32-year old financial advisor who plans to travel to South Africa with his father and sister to cheer on La Albiceleste.

But it won’t be cheap, as each member of Spagnolo’s family is expected to pay about US$9,000 for a 21-day stay in South Africa, where they plan to attend first-round and round-of-16 games, Spagnolo said.

Spagnolo said he purchased the tickets through an open lottery on FIFA’s website, and he booked plane and transportation arrangements in South Africa a year ago to reduce costs.

“A big difference with the previous World Cup (Germany, 2006) is going to be the ground transportation,” said Spagnolo. “On that occasion we had to get from Berlin to Hamburg to see the team play and it was very easy and comfortable to do so in a rented car equipped with GPS. But this time, we’ve decided to rent a van with a local driver because public transportation in South Africa is unorganized, and this seemed a good way to minimize the risks.”

Spagnolo isn’t the only Argentine who planned ahead. World Cup fever really consumed the country when La Albiceleste solidified its berth in the 32-team field with a 1-0 victory over Uruguay in Montevideo on Oct. 14.

“From the moment Argentina qualified for the Cup we started getting an avalanche of calls,” said Andrea Blamas, a sales representative with the Argentine tour operator Mundoreps. “Tickets for first round matches are totally sold out by now. But some of our other products worked out very well, like the one in which we combined the Cup matches with very popular excursions through South Africa’s interior.”

The company offers a package that includes a ticket to each first-round game, 15 nights in highly rated hotels in Johannesburg and Pretoria – the cities hosting Argentina’s first-round games – airfare and ground transportation to see the matches for about US$8,500 per person.

But travel companies offer less expensive packages for fans unable to stay in South Africa for long stretches.

“We have a program where you pick games separately, for those who want to be at the Cup but cannot take two weeks off from their jobs,” said Carlos Valdez, a sales representative with Rotamund travel agency. “This package costs anywhere from US$2,980 to US$3,200 per person, plus administrative fees, depending on the games chosen, and on whether or not it includes ground transportation and other activities before and after the games.”

Valdez also takes care of fans wanting to turn the World Cup into a vacation.

“One of the packages includes 14 hotel nights, airfare and two tours and costs around $9,350 per person plus administrative costs,” he said.

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