2010 stadium tour wows media

 LOC CEO Danny Jordaan talking to journalists about South Africa’s readiness to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup
LOC CEO Danny Jordaan talking to
journalists about South Africa’s readiness
to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
(Image: Bongani Nkosi)

Joao Raposo, a Brazilian journalist, is so impressed with South Africa’s stadiums he’s concerned his home country won’t match up when it hosts the Fifa World Cup in 2014.

“In Brazil we’re concerned about the stadiums we will have,” Raposo said during a recent interview at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg. “I think it will be difficult to compete with the stadiums that Africa has [built].”

Raposo, a producer at Bandeirantes TV in Sao Paulo, is one of 120 international and local journalists currently touring South Africa’s 10 host stadiums on a trip initiated by Fifa and the Local Organising Committee (LOC). It has been scheduled to coincide with celebrations marking 100 days remaining to the kick-off the 2010 Fifa World Cup in June.

What’s your view on the calabash-shaped Soccer City? I asked Raposo, who, together with a fellow journalist, will stay on after the tour to cover the full tournament in a few month’s time. “I think it’s amazing … but Moses Mabhida [in Durban] is very beautiful, it’s my favourite,” the Brazilian said.

The World Cup in South Africa will be spectacular and will certainly cement Africa’s place in world football, he added.

The tour is being led by Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke and LOC CEO Danny Jordaan, who are on hand to answer all journalists’ questions about the readiness of stadiums. It started in Johannesburg on 26 February with visits to Soccer City and Ellis Park.

The reporters will wrap up their tour on 2 March at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, where they will be addressed by South Africa’s deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, Fifa president Sepp Blatter and LOC chairperson Irvin Khoza.

Another journalist, Ghanaian Henry Asante Twum, is also taken aback by South Africa’s “impressive” stadiums. Twum, the head of sport at Ghana Television, had seen most of the host stadiums and is convinced the country will stage a memorable event in June.

“The World Cup in South Africa will be magnificent. I’m happy that Valcke has commended what South Africa has done to prepare,” Twum said. “I’m impressed with the stadiums I’ve seen.”

The hospitality industry also looks ready to welcome the world to Africa, Twum added. “I’ve seen some hotels here. I think the country is in good shape.”

Defining moments

Soccer City will accommodate a whopping 90 000 football fanatics, making it the biggest stadium in the country. Come kick-off on June 11, the venue will come alive with vuvuzela trumpeting and cheers from local and international fans as they watch the opening match between Mexico and Bafana Bafana, South Africa’s national squad.

Former Bafana midfielder Doctor Khumalo believes the vocal 90 000-strong crowd will be a motivating factor for Bafana. “A 90 000 capacity is a motivator. Some of the boys in Bafana will be nervous, but I don’t think they’re scared of Mexico,” he said.

Khumalo has fond memories of playing at the FNB Stadium, which was converted into Soccer City. He played many matches for Bafana and Kaizer Chiefs there, but scoring against Brazil in the 1996 Mandela Cup remains his favourite moment. “The stadium is beautiful, and it’s even better than the older one.”

Former striker Philemon Masinga also fondly remembers the impressive goal he scored for South Africa against the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997. The long-range shot Masinga unleashed after collecting the ball from a defence-splitting through pass from Khumalo remains South Africa’s most important goal, as it secured Bafana a place in the 1998 Fifa World Cup in France.

“I’ve got many memories of playing here,” Masinga said.

Ellis Park, the other World Cup host stadium in Johannesburg, also “brings back some wonderful memories”, said Joel Stransky – the former rugby player well remembered for scoring the drop goal that won South Africa the Rugby World Cup in 1995 at the stadium.

The sight of former president Nelson Mandela wearing a Springbok jersey while he congratulated the team remains etched in Stransky’s mind. Many have said Mandela’s choice of shirt that day inspired reconciliation between black and white South Africans – only a year after the end of apartheid.

Experts have given their firm promise that all 10 stadiums will be 100% ready for the June kick-off. At the moment the only area needing attention is the turf at Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga, but a pitch consultant from the UK has been called in remedy this. Fifa has assured the media that the 43 500-seater stadium will be completed in time, Radio 702 reported.

Vuvuzelas will be loud and clear

Fifa recently announced that the number of category four match tickets has been increased, meaning that local fans will have greater access to seats at stadiums. Previously only 11% of tickets were allocated for category four – the least expensive category available only to South African residents – but this has been upped to 29%.

“We made a commitment that the tournament must be affordable to South Africans … We said let’s give people who’ve been supporting club football in South Africa the chance to carry a World Cup ticket,” said Jordaan.

The more local fans there are, the more vuvuzelas, flamboyant fan gear and makarapas there will be at World Cup matches.

The plastic vuvuzela trumpet will not be banned from stadiums, Valcke said, on condition that it is not used as a weapon at match venues. “We agreed that we will not ban the vuvuzela or the kuduzela,” he added.

The vuvuzela, a South African original, will add a distinct African flavour to the international football event, said Issa Hayatou, the president of the Confederation of African Football. “The vuvuzela is a true representation of what African culture is about, and what African culture is.”