In the last day of his brief visit to South Africa, Argentinean coach, Diego Maradona, paid a visit to the venue that all 2010 FIFA World Cup™ teams will hope to be playing in come 11 July 2010 – the final at Soccer City stadium.
With the pitch freshly laid and the finishing touches being applied ahead of the opening match on 11 June, the former FIFA World Cup winner walked out into the middle of the stadium to survey what will soon become one of the most recognised stadiums in the world.
“They really did a great job on this stadium (Soccer City). I have been to many stadiums before but this is very big and so great. To be able to enter this stadium is so beautiful. I feel inspired to play here but unfortunately my time has passed,” said Maradona.
Breaking away from the crowd of media, Maradona walked to the centre of the pitch in a silent moment of contemplation. For the Argentinean coach, the desire to have his team run out onto the Soccer City pitch for the FIFA World Cup Final was evident as he circled in prayer - recognising the special moment inside Soccer City.
The former World Cup winner then went over to a group of construction workers to congratulate them on the great work done on the stadium. For one of the workers it was a moment that will live with him for a long time. “That was so wonderful, I used to watch him play and now I see him on the field of the stadium I am building. This is truly great”.
Having spent the last week in South Africa, Maradona is confident that fans and teams alike will greatly enjoy the World Cup.
“I have been here a week and everything is good and everyone is very friendly. There is no doubt this will be a great World Cup because the people of South Africa want this and they will get it. This is the impression I take to my country”.
Maradona was in South Africa to inspect his team’s base camp at the High Performance Centre at the University of Pretoria as well as to visit a number of schools in the area. For Maradona, the Argentinean fans coming to South Africa for the World Cup need not worry about feeling at home in South Africa.
Speaking earlier in the week to learners at Lowe Middle School, situated nearby the Argentinean base camp, Maradona spoke to the crowd about the warmness of South Africans. “I have had many welcomes throughout my career but I am sure that this day I will never forget. With each handshake I felt I had a friend. Thank you for welcoming me like this”.