15 November 2009

First international at PE's 2010 stadium

FINALLY, the new Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth experienced its first international soccer match, when Bafana Bafana played Japan on Saturday, and the venue for eight matches during next year’s World Cup – including a quarter-final and the third-place play-off – proved a resounding success.

With tickets all unreserved and costing just R30, the best seats – around the halfway mark – were already taken when we arrived an hour or so before kick-off. Our seats were nevertheless superb, with Japan playing towards “our” goal for the first half.

The atmosphere was fantastic, with the crowd in festive mood. And those put out by the vuvuzela cacophony can take comfort in knowing that a wad of cotton wool in each ear mutes the sound sufficiently for you to still enjoy being part of the throng.

By the time the game started, the place was almost full to its 48 000 capacity, with fans even taking up seats on the top tier.

The surface looked superb, with passes rolling along the grass like woods on a bowling green. Sure the match, which ended in a goalless draw, did not contain too many fireworks, but at least Bafana did not play ultra-defensively and made one or two scoring opportunities. The Blue Samurai showed they are a well-drilled outfit and were probably unlucky not to score on a couple of occasions.

But once again, three cheers to the stadium itself, which showed it will prove an ideal showcase during next year’s football fiesta. Roll on the World Cup!

With over an hour till kick-off, the stands around the half-way line were already packed.

Looking out towards the North End lake stand, with the orange players' tunnel just visible.

This Kaizer Chiefs supporter proved a great hit with the Bafana fans.

A giant Blue Samurai shirt and other Japanese calligraphy and images occupied part of the stand. It later made way for more fans.

The Bafana squad warms up ahead of the game.

With kick-off imminent, the place is starting to look packed.

A media scrum outside the tunnel awaits the arrival of the teams.

National anthem time.

Play is under way, with the Japanese on the attack.

Young fans blow their miniature vuvuzelas.

The scoreboard clock shows over 94 minutes have elapsed, with still no score.