22 May 2009
Remember the good old stadiums from the bad old days? If any venue symbolised apartheid-era soccer in South Africa, it was the Rand Stadium tucked away between the mine dumps on the south side of Johannesburg.
Construction of the 15 000-seater facility was completed in 1951 and, for the next 25 years or so, some of the country’s top teams (Highlands Park, Germiston Callies, Addington, etc) strutted their stuff, occasionally joined by some of the giants of European soccer, including Arsenal, Ajax, Newcastle United and Real Madrid.
In the 1960s, major renovations were carried out, with the construction of a VIP stand and additional grandstand seating.
Like most sports facilities in apartheid South Africa, the so-called “native issue” was also addressed with the construction of separate seating and amenities.
Following South Africa’s expulsion from Fifa in 1976, things were never quite the same again. In addition to soccer, the venue was also used for boxing (and wrestling) bouts and music concerts, and it became a popular hang-out for sheep and vagrants.
However, the awarding of the 2010 Word Cup to South Africa breathed new life into a facility which had largely been written off. A multi-million rand project over the past three years has given the entire stadium a facelift.
New seating, a new grandstand roof and media facilities, new changerooms and, of course, a new pitch have rebranded the 60-year-old facility.
In addition, the project managers have painstakingly ensured that the look and feel of the original venue has been retained, including the unique scoreboard in the north-eastern corner of the ground.
While the Rand Stadium will not host any 2010 World Cup matches, it will be used as a training facility during the tournament, and will represent one of many magnificent spin-offs of the event.
And on Saturday 23 May 2009, the former spiritual home of South African soccer will enjoy a rebirth of sorts when it hosts the Nedbank Cup final between Moroka Swallows and Amatuks.
Urquhart is a former Fifa World Cup media officer and the current editor of Project 2010