World Cup Debate: The City Of Polokwane Embraces World Cup Fever visited the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane recently, and spoke to a few of the locals to get their feelings on the upcoming tournament...
Polokwane is the smallest of the nine host cities for next year’s World Cup in South Africa. decided to pay the city a visit to try to gauge the level of excitement ahead of the global event, which will be on their doorstep in less than 12 months.

Peter Mokaba Stadium

Situated just 5 kilometres from the Polokwane city centre, the Peter Mokaba Stadium is named after the former anti-apartheid activist, who also led the ANC Youth League. Mokaba was born and bred in Polokwane and was renowned for his fighting spirit and for being an inspiring leader.

Arriving at the stadium, it was clear that the venue was very near to completion, and from a distance it seemed to be ready for use. As I approached I noticed a number of construction workers on ground level, with work still needing to be done in terms of the paving and general outside work at the arena.

Circling the area, it was very quiet and peaceful, with only the sounds of men proudly at work to break the silence. A phone conversation with the contractor revealed that the stadium was 95 per cent complete, and it showed from the outside. Only the precinct area surrounding the stadium, parking and vegetation needed work.

Construction Workers At Peter Mokaba Stadium

Speaking to a few of the blue jumpsuit-clad workers, a sense of achievement and anticipation was the clear theme, with many of them enjoying the spotlight as the global event beckons.

Marius was keen to answer any questions I had, as he pushed his way to the front of the group and introduced himself. “It will be a proud moment when the games are played here and the first goal is scored," he said. "The fans will be jumping and screaming in a stadium that we helped build. It will be a memory for me to tell my children and grandchildren about.”

These construction workers will be rewarded for their efforts with free tickets to some of the group stage games, and Reggie knows that he will be part of a very special event. “The first World Cup in Africa is a very special moment for all Africans, and for the whole world, as we will show them that we are a great nation and good people," he smiled. "We will give them a good show. I look forward to getting my ticket and watching a World Cup game - how many people can say they helped build a stadium for the World Cup and then watched a game in that very same stadium?”

The Pitch

Arthur was also excited about his free ticket, but he had a specific scenario in mind. “I am hoping to watch Germany or England," he said. "I hope the ticket I get will be lucky, and even better if I get to watch Germany against England, it will be a dream game. Who knows? I’m a lucky person and I have always loved their football.”

Quietly listening to his fellow workers, Patience nodded his head as the theme of Bafana, the South African national team was brought up. I asked him what he thought of the team. He replied, “They are good players with a good coach. They did their best at the Confederations Cup and the world was able to see our passion for the team. I hope that the pressure from the World Cup makes them play at their best level.”

Behind the Peter Mokaba Stadium is the Polokwane rugby stadium, an arena that may be used as one of the training grounds during the event. In between the two stadiums there is a rugby club with two fields and a bar. Speaking to the bartender, Jaco, it was clear that his excitement was also based around the events of next June and July.

“The World Cup brings with it a carnival atmosphere, and people who want to drink and enjoy themselves," he said. "This bar is so close to the stadium, and it will be great for business to have the fans coming here often. There are only a few games to be played in Polokwane, but they will be more than enough to put the city in a happy, festive mood.”

The city is small in comparison to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, but Polokwane had its own old-world charm and friendly folk who are keen to welcome the World Cup crowds next year. Visitors should not be fooled by the size of the airport, or the slow pace of life in the city - this place is ready for the World Cup. The welcoming and excited inhabitants, and the 45,000-seater stadium that catches the eye from a great distance is testament to that fact.

Peter Pedroncelli,