Port Elizabeth may own a brand new World Cup stadium, but the local fans are disappointed that they are missing out on Manchester City’s Vodacom Challenge tour.
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.