World Cup fans left up in the air


Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa — While FIFA looked for ways Thursday to reimburse several hundred very unhappy fans, authorities were still trying to piece together what went wrong when Durban’s King Shaka International Airport was brought to a standstill before the Germany-Spain semifinal match.

The airport apparently was not prepared to deal with the unexpectedly large number of private aircraft arriving. As a result, runways were jammed and five passenger aircraft had to be diverted back to Johannesburg and Cape Town, while others experienced severe delays.

The congestion on the ground, caused in part by earlier bad weather on Wednesday and in part by the arrival of large numbers of private aircraft, led to what one British Airways pilot described as “absolute chaos.”

According to a report in Britain’s Financial Times, “Some of the fans had spent upward of $1,300 for semifinals tickets but were stuck in Johannesburg while private jets carrying Spain’s King Juan Carlos, South African President Jacob Zuma, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and socialite Paris Hilton landed.”

Hundreds of fans were unable to make it to Moses Mabhida Stadium in time to see Spain defeat Germany, 1-0, to clinch a place in Sunday’s final. The announced attendance of 60,960 was about 1,800 short of capacity.

“Unfortunately, these kind of things happen,” said a spokesman for the local World Cup organizing committee. “We will be meeting with [airport authorities] later today to make sure this doesn’t happen again during the final” in Johannesburg on Sunday.

England’s Webb is referee for final

So, England has reached the World Cup final after all. No, Wayne Rooney will not be on the field Sunday, but Howard Webb will be the man in the middle.

Webb, 38, a former policeman, will be blowing the whistle at Soccer City when the Netherlands plays Spain.

Webb and his assistant referees, Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey, officiated at the European Champions League final in May when Inter Milan defeated Bayern Munich in Madrid.

The trio has officiated three games at South Africa 2010: Spain’s 1-0 loss to Switzerland, Slovakia’s 3-2 win over Italy and Brazil’s 2-0 victory against Chile.

Germans still in shock

Spain’s 1-0 victory and the unexpected elimination of Germany in the semifinals left millions of German fans shattered, according to Thursday’s editions of the country’s leading newspapers.

“You could see the horror etched in the faces of the hundreds of thousands of fans watching at the fan mile” in Berlin, said Der Tagesspiegel.

German Coach Joachim Loew’s side had captured the imagination of the public, and Wednesday night’s game in Durban was watched by a record 31.1 million people on television and by another 12 million at fan sites across the country.

The TV audience was larger than the 29.6 million who watched Germany’s loss to Italy in the 2006 semifinals.

“We lacked courage and cleverness,” the Bild newspaper said of the defeat