The swell of pride was tangible at the newly completed Nelson Mandela Bay stadium this weekend as thousands of fans filled the 2010 FIFA World Cup arena to watch South Africa take on Japan in a friendly international.
The stadium echoed with the awesome power of the vuvuzela, giving a voice to the jubilation of the South African fans, dressed to the hilt in the colours of the rainbow nation.
The clash saw South Africa hold off the Blue Samurai to a 0-0 draw. Moreover, it saw the successful hosting of an international football game in the first completed, newly built stadium in South Africa, ahead of next year’s 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
Fans were impressed by the “stunning” stadium and the smooth running of the match.
“I’m very proud of the stadium, it really lives up to the name ‘Nelson Mandela’ stadium,” said technician Vuyani Sqokwana, on his third visit to the completed football arena with his wife and an 11-month old daughter.
The whole family had a honk on their vuvuzela, even toddler, Ibongwe. When asked if he thought South Africa was ready for the World Cup, Sqokwana’s resolute reply was: “We are ready now.”
Philip Dada, a football player himself for local veterans team − Eastern Cape Legends − took time to enjoy the game with his family for a change. “This is a nice family outing, and for once we can watch together instead of them watching me out on the field.”
Given his history in football, he believes he is well placed to judge whether or not things have run smoothly.
“There is no doubt that we are ready for the World Cup. We showed at the Confederations Cup that we are prepared and we did it again today in our perfect stadium.”
Brothers Andrew (41) and Duncan Stewart (37) have watched the building go from “inception to completion” and, although they are not big football fans, they could not resist the opportunity to watch the national team in their local stadium.
“We came to see what it’s all about, we wouldn’t normally watch soccer, but this is Bafana Bafana. They are our national team, so we had to come out and support.
“We are amazed at how full it is, the turn-out from the people is very impressive. I can’t imagine anyone sitting in a stadium like this and not being impressed,” said Andrew Stewart, an exhibition stand designer, with Duncan Stewart chirping in that the success shows “we will be ready”.
Sisters Sharmilla and Prishana Rajput had neither been to the stadium nor a football match before and were undoubtedly impressed.
“I drive past the stadium everyday, but seeing it and being inside it are two different things. It is a totally magical experience − you can definitely feel the vibe and energy and it makes me excited for next year,” said Sharmilla Rajput.
Prishana Rajput said the impact on the city can already be felt. “The World Cup is on our doorstep,” she said. “We are definitely ready and waiting in Port Elizabeth.”
The stadium can seat over 45 000 people. Eight games, including a third and fourth place playoff and a quarter Quarter Final, will take place at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium during the World Cup.