||ESPNsoccernet: World Cup 2010
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
ESPNsoccernet: February 24, 10:05 PM UK
Soccer City Stadium
Name Soccer City Stadium (FNB Stadium)
Year completed 1989
Home to Kaizer Chiefs (football)
Trivia The outside of the stadium is designed to have the appearance of a calabash, an African pot
Home to South African football heavyweights Kaizer Chiefs, the 94,000 capacity Soccer City has undergone a US$310 million revamp for these finals. The money has been spent on increasing the capacity from 78,000, upgrading floodlights, VIP areas, rebuilding changing rooms and a hi-tech terracotta outer shell that is meant to resemble a traditional African earthenware pot. Before the makeover, the ground literally used to shake with the fervour of supporters, so expect the extra capacity to turn the volume up to stunning levels.
Soccer City - or the FNB Stadium to give it its official title - is found on the Nasrec Road in the famous south-western township of Soweto. It is best reached by car or park-and-ride bus. To improve road access, the Soweto freeway has been widened and the stadium boasts no fewer than 15,000 car parking places. Park-and-ride is a decent option as well.
Leave your vehicle at one of the designated car parks around the city (Marks Park in Emmarentia, Bezuidenhout Park near Ellis Park, Wits West campus at Wits University and Montecasino in Fourways) and catch a bus to and from the stadium.
Where to go, what to see
For one thrilling month in 2010, Johannesburg will become the round ball capital of the planet.
In addition to games at Ellis Park, Soccer City hosts the tournament's opening game, the final, plus four group games, a second fixture and a quarter-final.
Johannesburg is a sprawling place built for the car, but you should exercise caution when driving as carjacking is an unfortunate hobby for some. A wise move is not to cruise around in a luxury German model - would-be thieves love Mercedes and BMW - and a few basic precautions should be adhered to: keep the doors locked and the windows up, be aware of anyone moving around the car, be particularly careful when going to and from your vehicle and never flash anything of value in sight.
While the city fathers are setting much store on a bus rapid transit (BRT) system to ferry fans around - the idea is to provide dedicated road lanes for such vehicles - there is a long way to go. Also, minibus drivers eager to protect their livelihoods are not at all keen on the plans and are threatening disruption.
Buses can be useful for visitors going from the main bus terminus in Gandhi Square off Eloff Street to plush northern suburbs such as Melville, Rosebank, Parkhurst, Sandton and Melrose, the location of the bulk of the city's hotels and B&Bs. Fares, payable to the driver, range from just 55c to $1.45 depending on the distance travelled.
On touching down at the city's airport, O.R. Tambo International, the best way into town is with an airport shuttle bus run by companies such as Johannesburg Airport Shuttle (Tel: 011 394 6902) or Magic Bus (Tel: 011 548 0822). They offer door-to-door transfers throughout the city and can be pre-booked or arranged at desks in the Parkade building opposite the domestic terminal. Expect to pay around $27.50 to $33.50, depending on how far you are going. Metered taxis come in dearer for the airport-hotel trek.
Outside the stadia, Johannesburg's World Cup party will be largely held at the Fan Fest at the Mary Fitzgerald Square - named after a local trade unionist and campaigner for women's rights - in the central quarter of Newtown. Easily accessible, this former wagon site can hold up to 50,000 people and will feature a big-screen with live feeds of all 64 games at the tournament, food and drink concessions, and entertainment for the whole family.
Newtown, which has been transformed in recent years from a rundown, anarchic area into an attractive and relatively safe quarter, is an appropriate venue for the Fan Park. Vibrant and open-minded, it has become the leisure-time hub of the city, with more than enough to keep the visitor entertained, fed and watered.
The Museum Africa on the north side of the square provides a fascinating insight into the history of the nation and the city, The Bassline (Henry Nxumalo Street) is Johannesburg's best live music venue and any football fan worth his salt will not want to miss out on the South African Breweries World of Beer, a 90-minute tour housed in a building on the corner of Miriam Makeba and President streets.
This district also boasts an above-average selection of bars, clubs, coffee shops and restaurants. One eatery you really should not miss is Gramadoelas on Bree Street. It's not cheap but, for refined atmosphere, fantastic service and great Cape and African dishes, the place is in a league of its own. Try the delicious 'umngqusho', braised shin of beef with beans and maize or the lamb couscous.
Another must-visit joint is Kapitan's on Kort Street, a brilliant Indian curry house that was apparently Nelson Mandela's favourite haunt as a young lawyer. The upmarket northern suburb of Mellville, renowned for its relaxed, hip vibe, also boasts a legion of fine restaurants.
The Thai and Vietnamese specialities at Soi (corner of Seventh Street and Third Avenue) combine memorable taste sensations with affordability, Sam's Cafe on Seventh Street does excellent Mediterranean cuisine at more than reasonable prices and, on the same drag, Nuno's serves up piles of great Portuguese fare, particularly the cod and the sardines. Melville also has a great nightlife strip on Seventh Avenue, a street with wall-to-wall bars. Check out Xai Xai, a Mozambique-themed spot.
All in all, there's something for every palate in Johannesburg. From French to Italian, Chinese to African and African to Asian, the list of authentic ethnic restaurants is endless. Nor will fast-food aficionados be disappointed: McDonald's, Wimpy, Nando's and KFC franchises are in plentiful supply.
In need of retail therapy? Johannesburg can satisfy in spades. Around the city are no fewer than 20 cavernous shopping malls, most of which are mini-villages, housing banks, pharmacies, post offices, cinemas and restaurants, as well as the inevitable shops. Head to Melrose Arch on Melrose Boulevard, the Hyde Park Mall (Jan Smuts Avenue) or, the best of the entire bunch, the Sandton City on the corner of Sandton Drive and Rivonia Road.
Jo'burg is the economic powerhouse of the continent and yet large swathes of the populace struggle to eke out a living and, not surprisingly for a city of such extremes of wealth and poverty, crime levels have been appallingly high. Still, thanks to the introduction of CCTV cameras and other measures, rates of serious wrongdoing (thefts, muggings, carjacking) are decreasing.
It is essential that you are not naive about the dangers but, by taking the necessary precautions (move around in groups, try not to look like a tourist, don't carry excessive sums of money, avoid wearing expensive watches or jewellery), a trip to this pulsating working city need not fill you with paranoia or fear.