Before the tournament started, grave misgivings were raised about Africa’s ability to host the World Cup. Critics were not sure if the stadiums would be completed on time and security was a sticky point.
They wondered if SA could afford such profligacy in putting up the stadiums against the backdrop of prevalent poverty and disease among its people. The cynics were proved wrong as the 88,460-seat calabash architectural masterpiece roared to life on Sunday night to mark the pinnacle of the month-long tournament.
Soccer City is located near the football-mad Soweto and I have no doubt it will be put into first-rate use even after the world’s football greats have left South Africa.
In all, there were 10 stadiums – most better than those found in Europe – that were used to host the tournament and there are concerns that some may turn into white elephants.
The tournament went beyond the expectations of many and South Africa must now prove the skeptics wrong again by making certain the Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane and Mbombela in Nelspruit do not turn into empty shells since there are no resident football or rugby teams in the proximity.
In places like Durban and Cape Town, they can consider persuading the rugby franchises to take up residence in the spanking new stadiums. But all is not lost… Ellis Park, Soccer City, Bloemfontein and Royal Bafokeng in Rustenburg will be put into excellent use by the PSL.
Reports that the Springboks will use Soccer City for test matches will be a boost while the Blue Bulls will be delighted by the upgrades made at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
The infrastructure will no doubt improve the lives of ordinary South Africans; the Gauteng train especially setting up a first for the rainbow nation and now, the stadiums should go beyond just hosting football tournaments.
The World Cup has left a feeling of togetherness in a nation plagued by racial differences and the people of South Africa have to build on this.
That the Super 14 final was held in the heart of Soweto shows just how far the world cup has gone into breaking stereotypes and racial divide as well as what can be achieved in the young nation.
To that, I say Ke Nako!
While at it, I’m told the turnout at the game between Gor Mahia and Chemelil was awesome. Let’s keep supporting our local teams by attending matches. I’ve already ordered my Gor jersey and plan to be in the stands during their next game against Tusker.