Pirates return to Orlando Stadium

2008-11-21 00:00

IT is another big weekend for South African football as the 2010 Fifa World Cup approaches, with two more major events marking the steady progress being made towards this country’s hosting of the planet’s greatest sporting spectacle.

Orlando Stadium, along with the Rand Stadium, one of the two traditional seats of South African football in Soweto, reopens today as a modern, refurbished 40 000-seater venue.

The event will be marked by a day-long programme, and then the historic return of Orlando Pirates to their long-time home venue, where they have not played in four years, for their Premier Soccer League meeting with Thanda Royal Zulu tonight.

As the official re-opening ceremony is completed at Orlando Stadium, VIPs, politicians, dignitaries and high-powered Fifa and LOC officials will scramble for their SUVs and luxury saloons, and those fortunate enough to have their own blue light escorts should just make the 2010 Fifa Confederations Cup draw at the Sandton Convention Centre a half-hour later.

Coverage of the 5 pm draw begins from 3.35 pm on SABC1.

The Confed draw follows the super-slick World Cup qualifying draw that was held at the Durban ICC in November last year as major events that display to a global audience that South Africa is on track to hosting a spectacular event in 2010.

The Confed Cup, from July 14 to 28 next year, will also serve that purpose and also as a test run for the World Cup for the host nation.

World Cup champions Italy; continental champions Spain, Brazil, Egypt, America, New Zealand, Iraq and hosts South Africa compete in the event.

It is likely that Orlando Stadium will be used as a training venue during the Confed Cup, which will be played only in four stadiums — Ellis Park, Loftus, the Free State Stadium and Royal Bafokeng in Rustenburg; and then again in the World Cup.

For Pirates, the move back to Orlando will mean a long-awaited return to their roots, with the Buccaneers having used Ellis Park as their base for the better part of a decade. And Bucs will have a modern facility at their disposal, complete with a 1 000-car underground parking lot, from the stadium that fell into neglect in the 1990s.

On the field, Bucs have hit form and they, along with Thanda, will hope to showcase all that is positive about a PSL that is being transformed by massive sponsorships and TV rights deals. Pirates, the team of LOC and PSL chairman Irvin Khoza, have shown signs of form after a slow start under Dutchman Ruud Krol.

Former Egypt coach, and Holland assistant coach Krol, who amassed 83 caps playing as a libero in Rinus Michels’s great Dutch “Total Football” side of the 1970s, masterminded Pirates’ 2-0 destruction of Kaizer Chiefs in the Soweto derby last weekend, where Teko Modise hit the post three times and the scoreline could have been far greater.

That was Bucs’ fifth match unbeaten and they have been showing signs of gaining a dangerous head of steam. Modise, the two-goal hero of Bafana Bafana’s midweek Mandela Challenge victory over Cameroon, has been regaining his form after appearing to suffer from burnout, and Thanda might find the Sea Robbers a hard team to stop.

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