Opening game at Soccer City set to be charged event

2010-05-21 00:00

WITH a sold-out 76 700 crowd, and the presence of president Jacob Zuma and Bafana Bafana, the opening of the awe-inspiring Soccer City with tomorrow’s Nedbank Cup final between AmaZulu and Wits University is expected to be a charged spectacle of an event.

Zuma will officially open the World Cup final venue and also participate in a meet-and-greet with the players ahead of kickoff. The presence of Bafana, less than three weeks before they play the opening World Cup match against Mexico at the same venue on June 11, will no doubt see the national team given a reception that will lift the roof of the awesome revamped stadium.

“It gives me goosebumps — the magnitude of this is more than I am able to understand because of the historic event, the history of soccer in this country and the history of the moment,” Premier Soccer League CEO Kjetil Siem admitted at a press conference at the stadium yesterday.

Siem said despite the final being contested by two unfashionable teams, the match was sold out by yesterday. The CEO said that a media area under construction in one of the top stands, and some suites still being completed, were the main reasons for the 95 000-seater venue not being sold to capacity.

Wits coach Roger de Sa said that the occasion and venue would be more than enough to inspire his team on the day.

“There’s been no real need to motivate the players. My job was finished this morning with our final training session — with the newspapers and TV the occasion has really been in the players’ faces.

“If anything I’ve got to try and downplay it and try to tell them it’s just another game, which is difficult because of course it is a big game,” De Sa said.

AmaZulu counterpart Neil Tovey said while the occasion is a profound one for his club, the Durban team are looking further ahead, and at competing in the Caf Confederations Cup should Usuthu win tomorrow.

“I think we’re ready for the final. We know what cup finals are about. And at a great venue like this it’s going to be a great day for AmaZulu Football Club.

“But we want to take it one step further and we’re looking obviously to win it, but also further than that at taking AmaZulu into Africa. And that’s very important for the players and our technical staff.

“You can’t buy the experience you can get in Africa. I’ve felt over the last couple of years South African teams have been very poor in Africa and haven’t taken competing there seriously enough. And we want to convey our experience in Africa to them.

“Taking the club into Africa would be a wonderful experience. It could really showcase South Africa on the continent and start making an impact. I want to make an impact in the rest of Africa.”

For AmaZulu, reaching two cup semi-finals and a cup final this PSL season has highlighted the turnaround the club has achieved from the late 1990s and early 2000s when Usuthu were poorly administrated and spent a few seasons in the first division.

“We’re on a three-year programme,” Tovey said.

“Our technical staff have done wonders this season. And you just have to look at our technical staff — myself, Clive [Barker], Calvin [Petersen], goalkeeper-coach Graeme Johnson. And also the administration staff. There are people there who are passionate about success.

“And now that we have consolidated our place over the last two years we’ve settled down nicely and it’s given a platform on which to build the team.”

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