The World Cup will have a social legacy for South Africa well beyond its sporting aspect, FIFA president Joseph Blatter said on Friday.

Mr. Blatter said football was “a school of life” and the World Cup was a “package” with the tournament laying the groundwork for social and cultural affairs.

Efforts to combat poverty, illiteracy and disease will be helped by the first World Cup tournament on African soil, he said.

“The World Cup in South Africa is a key for political change,” he said at his last news conference at FIFA headquarters before the June 11—July 11 tournament.

Mr. Blatter said he was still hopeful that former South African president Nelson Mandela would be healthy enough to open the World Cup. Mandela, 91, made his last public appearance to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his release from prison on February 11.

“For the time being, he is doing well and we hope that he can do it,” he said.

Football’s governing body said it expected some 360,000 foreign tourists for the tournament beginning in June, correcting upwards a figure from the start of the year of around 225,000.

FIFA said earlier in the year that a South African forecast of 450,000 visitors from around the world had been too optimistic.

But general secretary Jerome Valcke admitted FIFA should have organized ticket sales differently, and it is now likely that tickets for the 2014 tournament in Brazil will be sold directly and not only via the internet.

Direct purchases for South Africa were only introduced, after some hesitation and sluggish sales, in the fifth and last sales phase.

FIFA say 90 per cent of the 2.88 million tickets available to the public for the 64 matches have been sold. Both semi—finals and the July 11 final in Johannesburg on July 11 are sold out.

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