Nelspruit’s impressive 2010 FIFA World Cup™ match venue Mbombela Stadium is officially in business with the Mpumalanga Province now boasting, for the first time, a state of the art football facility that will give football in this part of the world a big shot in the arm. The venue hosted its much-awaited first official match yesterday when South Africa defeated Thailand 4-0 in front of a capacity crowd.
The stadium's design is inspired by Nelspruit’s intimacy with wildlife, with the region encompassing the much-acclaimed Kruger National Park. When not occupied the artistic and animated black and white colours of the seating provide a spectacular image, but on Sunday, a see of yellow and green covered the stadium. Such images of support for the Bafana Bafana have now become trademark throughout the host nation.
Mbombela is one of the 10 venues that will host the 2010 FIFA World Cup when the world’s greatest showpiece commences next month. The stadium will host its first FIFA World Cup match when Chile tackles Honduras in a Group H encounter on 16 June. However, arguably the biggest match that the stadium will host will be when the incumbent champions Italy, travel to Nelspruit for a date with Oceania champions, New Zealand on 20 June.
Local fans came in thousands to witness the inauguration of the venue while also showing support to Bafana Bafana. One of the football enthusiasts who savoured this historic day was Charles Siphane. “It’s a beautiful venue and we are all proud of it," he said. "I have been looking forward to an opportunity to watch football at the stadium for sometime now. The inside (of the stadium) looks very good, I’m certain this is one of the best venues in this country. Now we want to see some good football here in Nelspruit."
Mbombela Municipality’s 2010 co-ordinator Differ Mogale said: “I was happy to see so many people come to the official opening of this venue. And, we are proud about the fact that our stadium was completed on time giving us enough time to concentrate on some other issues that need to be finalised before the kick-off. We are now looking forward to the first game that we will host here." Having twice needed to dig up the pitch at the stadium over the course of the last year, it was a case of third time lucky as the new pitch laid a few weeks ago germinated well.
One of the admirers of the new stadium is Bafana Bafana goalpoacher and two-goal hero against Thailand, Katlego Mphela. “I think it’s a wonderful stadium and the atmosphere inside is unbelievable," said Mphela. "It’s a pity we won’t play any of our matches here, but I’m sure those teams that will compete in Mbombela will enjoy it. As we are getting closer to the World Cup, you can see the reaction and the passion of our people irrespective of where you go. People are looking forward to this event and the images that we saw at Mbombela are everywhere."