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Sun Apr 20 18:28:31 SAST 2014

Pop goes the pitch

MAZOLA MOLEFE | 14 November, 2012 06:080 Comments
Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund is shocked at the state of the Soccer City pitch ahead of the Nelson Mandela Challenge between South Africa and Zambia at the iconic 2010 World Cup venue tonight

DON'T expect carpet football when Bafana Bafana take on Zambia in the Nelson Mandela Challenge at Soccer City tonight.

The jewel of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is again in bad shape after another pop concert ahead of a major game.

In February last year, the stadium was in an even uglier state after hosting a U2 concert ahead of a Soweto derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.

Bafana coach Gordon Igesund, who had only one training session before the match, is far from amused at the current state ofaffairs.

"I'm surprised [at the state of the pitch] because this is a world-class facility. I wanted us to play here because it is our final chance to get the feel of the pitch before we are back here for the opening match [of the Africa Cup of Nations]," said Igesund.

Bafana host Cape Verde at the venue in their opening Afcon match on January 19.

"I hear they had a concert here," he said. "I would have liked to see the pitch in a better condition for us to play here and obviously the rain made it worse."

Music shows have become a prime source of revenue to avoid using taxpayers' money to keep the venue running, according to Stadium Management CEO Jacques Grobler, who was adamant the pitch would be ready for tonight's match.

"The venue hosted the Linkin Park concert over the weekend and we had about 65000 spectators at the stadium - 20000 of whom were on the pitch. So we have picked up about 15% damage to the pitch following the concert.

"Parts of the pitch will also be discoloured. It takes a few days for the grass to return to green. We would love to have luscious pitches from January to December. But in reality that is never going to be the case. Our mandate is to make this stadium financially viable so that the taxpayer doesn't have to pay a single cent," Grobler said.

Grobler said Soccer City was dependent on a "commercial model" that included staging concerts.

"It is a multipurpose stadium, and, from time to time, the pitch will not always be what we want," said Grobler.

He confirmed that Soccer City was likely to resemble a cabbage patch when Chiefs and Pirates clash at the venue on December 8, just a week after the Lady Gaga concert.

"To avoid this situation in future, the pitch will be made semi-artificial. But we will start with that process after the Soweto derby because we don't want similar concerns before the Africa Cup of Nations tournament," said Grobler.

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