FIFA president Sepp Blatter today claimed the World Cup in South Africa has already proved the doubters wrong.
Critics had predicted that fans would be deterred by high travel costs and the high crime rate in the country, while even FIFA themselves admitted earlier this year that ticket sales had not gone as well as they had hoped.
Blatter told reporters in Johannesburg: “More than 500,000 fans will have come to South Africa and some are talking about the figure being even higher.
“The forecast from ’old Europe’ was the fans wouldn’t come – well here they are.
“I am a very happy president today and I hope I will be happy until the very end of this week.”
Blatter said the fact that so many politicians had attended the tournament - including German chancellor Angela Merkel at the weekend – was an indication of the tournament’s global influence.
He added: “There is a political dimension to football too – how many heads of states have come to visit South Africa, and they all want to make sure they have the pictures taken in the stands. That’s the power of football.
“Football gives emotions in this deranged world. Look at the news and you see the world appears to have suddenly stopped and the TV cameras will after July 12 be used everywhere else in the world.
“We are giving hope to the world that perhaps through football we can become better human beings.”