24 February 2010
The Peter Mokaba Stadium is complete and the people of Polokwane, in South Africa’s Limpopo province, are excited to be part of history in the making as residents of one of the nine host cities of Africa’s first Fifa World Cup™.
Known as Africa’s City of Stars, Polokwane is the smallest of the host cities for this year’s World Cup, and a visit allows one to experience the excitement for the event and the pride of locals.
Jacob Ntuli, a 46-year-old bricklayer, is quick to comment when he overhears others talking about the World Cup. “We will welcome the people to watch our games at the stadium,” says Ntuli.
‘Place of Safety’
“Polokwane means ‘Place of Safety’ in Sotho, which is one of our 11 official languages. Yes, eleven, we are many different people, but we are all South African and we will welcome anyone from anywhere in the world to our city. It is a friendly city, and I wish there were even more matches here.”
“Have you seen the stadium?” asks Precious Mbulani, a lady selling fruit on a street corner. “It is something very special because you can see it from far away, and on nights when the lights are on it is very beautiful. I wish I could watch a game at the Peter Mokaba Stadium, but it gives me pride to know that the best players will be so close to my home.”
Ronald Le Grange, an importer waiting for a shipment at Polokwane International Airport, agrees with Precious. “To think that Polokwane will be part of this once in a lifetime World Cup is astonishing. It’s a great time to be South African, and a great time to be in Polokwane.
“I have bought tickets for Argentina’s match against Greece for my family, and I can’t wait to enjoy the atmosphere at the Peter Mokaba Stadium,” says Le Grange.
Four group stage matches
Polokwane will host four group stage matches at the World Cup, with Algeria taking on Slovenia, France coming up against Mexico, Greece facing Argentina, and Paraguay playing against New Zealand.
Fifty-three-year-old Sergio Santos is a contractor working in the city on a few government projects. “Polokwane has become like a second home to me. Seeing as I will be here during the World Cup, I have applied for the game between France and Mexico.
“I will take a look at the other three games later on if there are still tickets, because saying you went to see a World Cup game is quite something, but saying that you attended four would make the nicest person jealous,” says Santos.
‘My uncle helped build this’
Ten-year-old Petros Moloi says his uncle was one of the workers who built this stadium, “and he is very proud of it. Now that it is finished, the World Cup can come to Polokwane and he can watch a game. I love the stadium because it is so big and it makes me feel very small, but important because it is in Polokwane.
“My teacher says the World Cup is something we will only see once, so we must remember for a long time and help to make it special for people from other countries,” says Moloi.
Saul Pietersen runs a small cafe in Polokwane, and he is hoping that the extra business will make up for tickets that he bought for the match between Algeria and Slovenia. “I bought tickets for my brother and I when we did not know who would be playing in Polokwane. When the draw was done we saw it was Algeria and Slovenia, and I’m glad it is an African team that I can support.
“The business from tourists will bring more profit and the tickets will be paid off quickly,” says Pietersen. “Maybe I should give discounts to Algerian and Slovenian fans who will be at the stadium with me!”