The final chapter was today written in the chequered history of South Africa's national football stadium Soccer City, the spectacular venue that will next year host the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ opening match and final.
The stadium was officially signed over to the City of Johannesburg by South Africa's Minister of Public Works, Mr Geoff Doidge, at SAFA house in Johannesburg today.
Built in 1987 on public land with primarily private funding, South Africa's iconic national football stadium was the first international standard stadium built for the country's football fraternity.
In a quick glance through the archives of the history of the stadium, the country's Minister of Sport and Recreation Rev Makhenkesi Stofile explained the significance of today's signing ceremony.
"In 1987 the apartheid government sold three pieces of land (on which the stadium is built) to the then Trust for Building Stadiums. The three pieces of land were sold for just over R5 million. That money was never paid and there was no compliance with the terms of that sale. As a result, that sale was nullified. Hence, the signing of this agreement is the culmination of a long period of negotiations between government and other stakeholders," said Stofile.
The South African Football Association (SAFA) were the custodians of the stadium where South Africa won the 1996 African Cup of Nations and where the goal was scored by Philemon Masinga that took Bafana Bafana to its first FIFA World Cup finals appearance at France in 1998.
The protracted negotiations culminated in SAFA symbolically selling the stadium to the South African Government for just one South African rand, thereby ensuring the stadium that will next year be the centre of the footballing world always remains the property of the South African public and its passionate football fans.
SAFA President Dr Molefi Oliphant said the association's signing over the stadium to the Government was the "most significant contribution we are making to South Africa".
Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Councillor Amos Masondo, said the City's signing of the lease agreement would ensure the stadium was always maintained and utilized for the benefit of future generations to come.
"The signing of this long-term lease will ensure the sustainability of the stadium and ensure it becomes a venue of choice for the hosting of both national and international events. It is our intention to make this facility a multi-purpose stadium and to position both the City of Johannesburg and the Province of Gauteng as major sports and cultural destinations," said Masondo.
Stofile said the stadium belonged to all South Africans and was an important national asset.
"One of the reasons why our Government got involved in the funding of the FIFA World Cup was to fast-track the development of infrastructure in South Africa that would otherwise have taken decades. This stadium belongs to the children of South Africa," said Stofile.
With 307 days to go till the opening ceremony and first match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, Soccer City is already 90% complete.
The stadium has been renovated to resemble a calabash, a traditional African cooking pot, and will have a total capacity of 91 500 seats.
"On 11 June 2010, Bafana Bafana will open the 2010 FIFA World Cup in this stadium. It will be a wonderful experience in front more than 90 000 supporters and 400 broadcasters allowing 750 million people to watch the opening game. We will have the chance to celebrate in a new, world-class stadium. It will be our Wembley, our Maracana, our Santiago Bernabeu and will be one of the best stadiums in the world," said Danny Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa.