Peter Pedroncelli goes to the heart of the action in South Africa...
Four cities will host the eight-team tournament, which will be used as a test event ahead of next year’s World Cup. Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg, Loftus Versveld in Tshwane, Royal Bafokeng in Rustenburg and Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein will host matches involving world champions Italy, European champions Spain, Iraq from Asia, USA and Brazil from North and South America, as well as New Zealand representing Oceania, African champions Egypt and hosts South Africa.
Geographic coordinates: 26°11'51.07"S, 28°3'38.76"E
The stadium was first built in 1928 as a rugby union stadium. It was demolished and rebuilt in 1982, but it was again used exclusively for rugby. It was named after JD Ellis, a Johannesburg city councillor who approved the use of the land for a stadium, setting aside 13 acres. The stadium was used for the finals of the 1995 IRB Rugby World Cup.
Coca-Cola Park, as it was recently renamed after sponsorship agreements, has also been the stage for many unforgettable football matches in the domestic scene, as well as a few Bafana classics. Coca-Cola Park will host five group games, one second round game and one quarter-final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The stadium will also host the final, as well as the opening and closing ceremony of the Confederations Cup.
The ground has undergone major changes ahead of the Confederations Cup in preparation for the festival of champions and next year’s main event. The west, south and north stands have been revamped with additional seating and a new roof added. New change rooms, VIP, media and medical facilities have all been added. In addition, a new entrance façade to the north stand has been built.
A new, five-level car park has also been completed and will accommodate 1,200 cars.
The revamped Coca-Cola Park Stadium seats 62,000 fans, increasing its capacity by almost nine percent from the previous 57,000.
Loftus Versfeld Stadium
Geographic coordinates: 25°45'11.57"S, 28°13'22.75"E
Loftus Versfeld in the heart of Pretoria currently has a seating capacity of just under 52,000. Very little upgrade was needed for the stadium to be ready for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It is also a venue for this year’s FIFA Confederations Cup, hosting one of the biggest and most popular games in the tournament, as Italy take on Brazil in front of a sell-out crowd at Loftus.
The site on which Loftus Versfeld is located was first used for sport in 1903. It was named after Mr. Robert Owen Loftus Versfeld, who is attributed with establishing organised sport in Pretoria. It has been used for numerous sports events, including the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 1996 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, which were both won by the host nation. It is now used by South African club Mamelodi Sundowns as their home ground for Premier Soccer League matches during the season.
Royal Bafokeng Stadium
Geographic coordinates: 5.5788° S 27.1607° E
The Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace is a rugby union, football and athletics stadium in Phokeng near Rustenburg, South Africa. It was originally built as a venue for the 1995 Rugby World Cup and was named after the Royal Bafokeng Nation. Although originally built as a rugby stadium, the stadium has become more of a football venue after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
Like most football stadiums in South Africa, the ground belongs to the municipality in the area. The Bafokeng people are extremely rich because of platinum mining in the area and on their cultural land, and as a result of this, the stadium has been kept in very good repair. The capacity of the stadium was increased from 38,000 to 42,000 in preparation for the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup.
For 2010, the West Stand was substantially upgraded, enlarged and given a new cantilever roof. Other improvements include the installation of new electronic scoreboards, new seats, the upgrading of the floodlights and public address system, which will render the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace ready to welcome the football supporters of the world. The stadium upgrade was completed by March of this year in preparation for the Confederations Cup.
Free State Stadium
Geographic coordinates: 29°06'52.69"S, 26°12'29.21"E
Mangaung/Bloemfontein will be hosting teams at the Free State Stadium. The stadium derives its name from the province in which it is located. The venue played host to group and quarter-final matches at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1996 and the IRB Rugby World Cup in 1995. It is also the alternate home ground of Premier Soccer League team, Bloemfontein Celtic.
The newly upgraded Free State stadium is the home of the Cheetahs rugby team as well, and it has been upgraded ahead of the Confederations Cup. The venue was upgraded to boast a seating capacity of 46,000. It now has 100 private suites with 200 seats as well as a VIP suite, which was upgraded to 650 seats. Other upgrades include a bigger media centre, parking and security features.
All of the stadiums are ready for the Confederations Cup tournament, with a further six venues currently being prepared for next year’s World Cup. The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was completed earlier this week.
Peter Pedroncelli, Goal.com