The majestic Soccer City Stadium, the venue for both the opening match and the Final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, received rave ratings from FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter who visited the stadium Wednesday morning.
The FIFA President described Soccer City as “one of the best venues” in the world during the official stadium hand-over ceremony where a commemorative plaque was also unveiled. The event was attended by Blatter, the president of CAF Issa Hayatou, Chairman of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Local Organising Committee Irvin Khoza, the Premier of Gauteng Nomvula Mokonyane, the Mayor of Johannesburg Amos Masondo and the Minister of Sport and Recreation Makhenkesi Stofile.
“It’s a five-star stadium,” enthused Blatter. “This is a great day for FIFA, to be here at this magnificent stadium. Together with the president of CAF, we are very proud of the work that has been done at the venue. The minister of sport, Mr Stofile, said Soccer City is the flagship for South Africa and the African continent, I will go further and say this stadium is a flagship of the world. It is one of the most beautiful stadiums, I can compare it with Wembley Stadium just outside London,” he said.
A job well done
The FIFA president told South Africans that they must be proud of the efforts that have made as they endeavour to make this FIFA World Cup a success.
“Yes this is a FIFA World Cup, but the people who have done the homework and the hard work are South Africans. We would therefore want to express thanks to them. What will happen at this stadium is part of history – you will have eight games played by some of the best teams. Some of the best players in the world are going to play in this venue. Now that the stadiums are ready, the whole world will now focus on South Africa. The world is now going through emotions, waiting for the games to begin.
Soccer City, which resembles the African Calabash with its charming patch-work of colours and round shape, is one of the most famous venues in South Africa. Blatter also revealed that one of his wishes is to see former preside of South Africa and world icon, Nelson Mandela at the opening game between hosts, South Africa and Mexico on 11 June.
“The biggest legacy of this World Cup will be the celebration of African humanity and no-one best represents that than Nelson Mandela. We hope that ‘Madiba’ will be at the opening game here; this has been part of his legacy, and he has worked hard for this project. This venue, to me, symbolises hope. It forms part of FIFA’s Football for Hope project, whereby we encourage education, healthy and uplifting societies.”
Waiting for the world
Speaking on behalf of the South African government, Minister of Sport and Recreation, Makhenkesi Stofile thanked FIFA for the confidence and the continuous support they have given the host country.
“Even when we were criticised, [FIFA] stood by us,” Stofile said. “Being at this stadium today, I have no doubt in my mind that this World Cup will be like no other, it will be different in many ways. We have travelled a long road to be where we are, we have experienced setbacks, but importantly, we have tasted many victories. This has been a unique journey for this country. Our stadiums are all ready, the road and infrastructure is in place. We are now waiting for the people to come and be part of this event.”
Afterwards, the FIFA President also opened the International Broadcast Centre - the hub of broadcast production, which is located next to Soccer City.