City played their first match against Orlando Pirates in Polokwane at the weekend and their second game against Kaizer Chiefs in Durban yesterday.
The three-team tournament continues in Port Elizabeth on Thursday when
Chiefs play Pirates, with the winner scheduled to play City in the
Final at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
This is not the first time organisers have kept English Premier League teams away from PE. In previous tournaments, Manchester United and
Tottenham Hotspur have also by-passed the city.
Football scribes in the Mandela Bay Metro believe it would have been
fitting for City to have started their tour in Port Elizabeth at South
Africa’s new 2010 stadium in North End.
However, they report that, despite City‘s absence, a record crowd is
expected on Thursday when Amakhosi and arch-rivals Bucs clash.
Over the years South Africa‘s most famous clubs have often locked horns
in the city, but this will be first meeting at the new World Cup
stadium. Games at the old EPRU Stadium were restricted by the ground‘s
30,000 capacity, but this will not be the case at the new stadium, which
can seat 48,000 fans.
Organisers are confident the magnetism of the first Soweto Derby in the
new stadium will come close to filling the venue to capacity and that
the 'house full' signs could go up long before the 20:15 kick-off.
There were almost 36,000 rugby fans under the futuristic bubble roof to
watch the Southern Kings play the British Lions, and 22,000 turned up
for the recent Premier Cup tournament, which featured Chiefs, Bay
United, Bloemfontein Celtic and SuperSport United.
The excitement generated by Thursday’s show-piece serves to highlight
the dearth of top sport on show in the city. While other major cities
have a steady diet of top-class football to watch, this is not the case
in Port Elizabeth.
Bay United were relegated from the Premier Soccer League, so events like the Vodacom Challenge take on extra significance. Even with Manchester City missing, Thursday’s Soweto Derby 'by the sea' is still expected to shatter attendance records.