Stadium name a huge hurdle - Mbalula
THE opening match of the Africa Cup of Nations almost took place at an alternative venue because of politics around the name of the stadium, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula revealed yesterday.
Soweto's Soccer City hosted the match as planned on January 19, but under a temporary name, National Stadium.
The venue will keep the name until the end of the tournament on Sunday.
Mbalula blasted both Stadium Management, the company that runs the 2010 World Cup venue on behalf of Johannesburg, and FNB, which holds the naming rights until next year.
The fuss over what the venue would be called during the tournament delayed ticket sales.
"It is something we could not tell the public, but the government was being held to ransom," said Mbalula.
"The stadium was built using taxpayers' money but we were being told we could not touch it until there was an agreement."
He said concerts, through which Stadium Management generates revenue at Soccer City, were a priority even during the naming rights' discussions between the government and FNB.
"The state of the pitch after concerts was arrogantly mentioned as a 'by the way' issue. That was pathetic.
"The government must get to work, particularly with how the stadiums are being managed," said Mbalula.
The Afcon closing ceremony and final match will take place at the stadium on Sunday, just a week after more than 90000 fans were at the venue for a Red Hot Chilli Peppers concert at the weekend.