2 October 2009
There’s certainly nothing conventional about Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit – dubbed “Africa’s wildest stadium”.
The nickname’s not in reference to overly boisterous football fans; you’d be hard-pressed to find more laid-back, easy-going people than in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province.
Rather, the nickname refers to something South Africa, and Mpumalanga in particular, is world-renowned for – its abundant wildlife, which strongly influenced the design of the stadium.
As World Cup visitors approach Mbombela Stadium in 2010 they will see giant orange “giraffes” standing ready to welcome them, in the form of the towering roof columns that dominate the stadium’s façade.
The venue’s seating is criss-crossed black and white to resemble zebra prints, while traditional Ndebele paintings light up the stadium’s meeting rooms, foyer and lounge areas.
And if the giant orange giraffes didn’t catch your eye, the stadium’s corridors light up with psychedelic green, yellow, blue and orange walls that will have World Cup players reaching for their designer shades next year.
Conventional it certainly isn’t, but with its dollops of colour, flair and imagination, the stadium will certainly stand out during the world sport’s biggest showpiece.
More than just an eye-catcher, however, the stadium is a fantastic, compact football venue, with great views and comfortable spaces for teams, spectators, media and broadcasters.
With the pitch newly laid, its 43 540 permanent seats already installed, and public address system and giant screen in place, Mbombela Stadium is weeks away from completion and chomping at the bit to showcase its warmth, vitality and the vibrance of its people to the world.
The future didn’t always look as bright, as the city authorities navigated a number of construction strikes and disputes. But despite the challenges, the city and the workers have created a real bushveld gem.
“This is really exciting,” says Mbombela Mayor Lassy Chiwayo. “For us this is a story of commitment, resilience and hard work. There are many unsung heroes who have made this possible. I want to pay tribute to the construction workers and to the community, who threw their weight behind us.
“This new baby towering above us symbolises hope,” says Chiwayo. “We’re hoping this tournament will act as a stimulus for economic and social development.”
He said it was important to the city and province that its rich cultural diversity, preserved over many years, was showcased during the World Cup.
And he added that with neighbouring countries Mozambique and Swaziland intimately involved, Mbombela was well-placed to deliver on South Africa’s promise of “a distinctively African World Cup”.