Rustenburg ready to welcome the champions
The first thing that any visitor to Rustenburg may notice is a huge Spanish flag that is hoisted high in one of the city's main streets. After a short drive, however, you are likely to be flanked by a sea of flags representing the eight participating nations while heading to the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
"For Rustenburg, the FIFA Confederations Cup will afford a unique opportunity to our people to see some of the world's biggest stars in action, we are humbled by that," Rustenburg official, George Khonou told FIFA.com. "The people here like football. The excitement is growing and we have witnessed a late surge for tickets. Our community is really getting behind this tournament and we are excited by that."
For the past three weeks, Rustenburg officials have devised various innovations to whet the appetite of the locals, including an aggressive marketing policy aimed at raising awareness about the tournament in the north-west province.
European champions Spain will kick off proceedings in the city with a match against Oceanian kings New Zealand in the newly-refurbished Royal Bafokeng Stadium on 14 June. While the All Whites have their own admirers in Rustenburg, it is the Spanish national side that has seemingly won the hearts of the locals.
"People are talking about the Spaniards," said Khonou. "And, I have seen a lot of people wearing the Spanish national team jersey on the streets; they are a very popular team here. But when they come against Bafana Bafana (South Africa), we will definitely support our country."
Spain and Liverpool striker Fernando Torres is by far the most popular name in this part of the world, and the thought of South Africans spending their evening being entertained by the Vicente del Bosque's side is already generating plenty of excitement. The second match to be hosted at the Royal Bafokeng stadium is the Group A match between hosts South Africa and New Zealand on 17 June. The arena will also host the match for third place a day before the final.
Rustenburg is one of the four venues for the FIFA Confederations Cup. It is 30 kilometres from the sensational Sun City, incorporating The Palace of the Lost City. Attractions at this resort include hot air balloon rides, The Valley of Waves and a 25-hectare jungle.