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Jan 24, 2010

World Cup venues pass first test

Two of South Africa's World Cup venues witnessed their first football matches on Saturday in preparation for the tournament.

The Cape Town Stadium hosted a local derby between Santos and Ajax Cape Town while the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane held an-all day tournament and both stadiums passed the first test of their readiness for the big event in June.

The Peter Mokaba Stadium is one of the five new stadiums that were built up from the dust. It will host four group stage matches including a much anticipated clash between France and Mexico. On Saturday, the stadium held just one less match than it would in the entire World Cup, with no complications.

The Peter Mokaba Cup, featuring defending South African Premiership team SuperSport United, Soweto giants, Kaizer Chiefs, student Premiership side, BIDvest Wits and Danish club Brondby, saw two semi-finals and a final played on the same day.

Roger de Sá, former South African goalkeeper and coach of BIDvest Wits said the stadium handled the day professionally. "All round it's a very good stadium. The training grounds are close by and the stadium itself has a good pitch and tight atmosphere with modern touches."

Part of that upgrade involved security. Police spokesperson Motlafela Mojapelo said more police officers than normal were deployed in the Polokwane area for the event. The stadium has a capacity of 46,000 but less than half of it was occupied for the Cup. More than 18,000 tickets were sold, according to Ndavhe Ramakuela, the Director of 2010 in the Polokwane Municipality.

A slightly larger number of fans piled into the revamped Cape Town Stadium to watch the derby match between the two Premiership teams. Twenty thousand tickets were made available and the match was sold out. The event was dubbed the Cape Town Soccer Festival and also had a musical performance by Freshly Ground and an official blessing.

Danny Jordaan, CEO of the Organising Committee, said he hopes Cape Town would come together as a community for the eight matches that will play out there. "We want this stadium to have a significant number of supporters from Cape Town, so that they can enjoy the stadium; so that they can embrace the fans coming and get into the spirit of being good hosts. It would be sad if you have a party in your house, and there's not a single one of your family members in the house," said Jordaan.

The match was also used as an opportunity to test the transport arrangement. Almost all of the ticket holders used the free park and ride facility and organisers said there were no glitches. Security was significantly increased ahead of the match. A thousand police officers from 24 different units patrolled the area around and inside the stadium on the day. The stadium will be tested again in two weeks time when a rugby match will see over 40,000 allowed into the venue.

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