Building 2010, one brick at a time

28 September 2009

Kgotso Mokatsanyane is one of the most important people in South African football. Every morning at 4.45am, the 24-year-old starts getting ready for work. At 6am he catches a minibus taxi from his home in Soweto, Johannesburg, which drops him off on the Soweto Highway. He then walks the short distance to his place of employment.

Mokatsanyane then spends the day lifting heavy pieces of steel and laying huge slabs of concrete. At the end of his day at 5pm, he catches another taxi in front of the construction site which takes him home.

His job is not glamorous, he does not get paid millions of rands, but without him, and people like him, the 2010 Fifa World Cup would not be a reality.

Mokatsanyane is a construction worker at the site of the new Soccer City stadium. He is one of 20 000 people at the 10 stadiums throughout the country who have laid their hands on the actual building blocks of the World Cup.

One afternoon while listening to the radio, he heard that Soccer City was being revamped and decided he wanted to be part of it. Mokatsanyane had no building experience, but says he has learnt a tremendous amount on the job. He is a member of a 13-man team that has been together since construction started.

For the ordinary men and women like Mokatsanyane who work at South Africa’s stadium sites, their jobs allow them to be part of the biggest show on earth. These men and women are the unsung heroes of the World Cup.

‘We have been waiting for a moment like this’

Mokatsanyane says the significance of the job they are doing is not lost on the construction workers at Soccer City.

“We clearly understand that this is for the sake of our country, and it is important because we have been waiting for a moment like this as a country as a whole. It brings out our true potential. We also do this for the love of football.”

Born and raised in Soweto, Mokatsanyane has always been in love with football and used to play football for Mofolo Knights and PJ Stars. In his area, people are becoming more and more excited about the World Cup as it approaches.

“Every time I go to my place, they ask me questions about how far the project is, when it will be finished and what the stadium looks like. I am fascinated by these questions and I am eager to answer them,” he says.

‘This stadium means a lot to South Africans’

Mokatsanyane says Soccer City is significant, not just because it is the flagship stadium of the World Cup, or because it is hosting the final.

“This stadium in particular – the way it has been designed and the shape [of an African calabash] that has been chosen – means a lot to South Africans and Africans as a whole. Africa has never hosted a World Cup and South Africans, through this stadium, have shown that we can be the best.”

And although he has seen the stadium grow from the ground up, he is still in awe of what has been achieved. “This stadium impresses me more than ever because I have seen it take shape,” he said.

For the hundreds of construction workers who have helped to build the stadiums, the training they have received has made them highly employable in their sector.

At Soccer City alone, 750 labourers who have never previously been employed received between two and 10 weeks of training. Of those who received training, 450 ended up working on the project, while a few others were transferred to work on the construction of new power plants for South Africa’s national electricity supplier, Eskom.

All of the training they have received is approved by the country’s Sector Education and Training Authority.

The Ticket Fund

The Organising Committee (OC), Fifa and Fifa’s partners have also recognised the important roles that construction workers have played in the preparations for the World Cup, and have rewarded their efforts through the Ticket Fund.

Launched on 14 August – the same day that marked 300 days until the start of the World Cup – the OC gave 40 000 tickets (two each) through the Ticket Fund to construction workers who have helped build the structures that will host the tournament.

“For the OC, the Ticket Fund is vital in ensuring that South Africans can benefit from their country hosting the World Cup,” OC chief executive Danny Jordaan said at the launch of the fund.

“It also shows appreciation for the critical role played by the thousands of construction workers, whose skill and dedication has made this project a vivid reality.”

Source: 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa Organising Committee