SAnews.gov.za (Tshwane)

23 November 2012

South Africa: FNB Stadium Pitch Will Be Ready for Afcon

Johannesburg — The City of Johannesburg says football fans can expect a carpet-perfect pitch during the opening match of the 2013 Africa Nations Cup (Afcon) at FNB stadium.

The world-class facility's pitch was damaged during the Linkin Park concert, which was held at the 2010 World Cup jewel, ahead of the Nelson Mandela Challenge match between Bafana Bafana and Zambia, a week ago.

Member of the Mayoral Committee in the City of Johannesburg responsible for Community Development, Chris Vondo, said: "In terms of the pitch which appears to be bumpy, this matter to us is history. Come the opening day of the tournament, the pitch will be ready ... we've ordered the desso which is a long term solution."

Vondo was speaking to reporters at FNB stadium on Thursday after making a presentation to the Afcon Local Organising Committee (LOC) about the City of Johannesburg's state of readiness to host Afcon matches.

Desso is a sports playing field surface composed of natural grass combined with artificial fibres. The artificial grass fibres are injected 20 centimeters deep, and cover about 3 percent of the surface, while the grass is growing; the roots intertwine with the artificial fibres.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa was the first world football tournament to be played on grass pitches that are partly made up of artificial grass.

The system was installed in the Mbombela Stadium and the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.

According to Vondo, the City of Johannesburg will install the desso after the Soweto Derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates on December 8.

The Calabash stadium is likely to resemble a cabbage-patch pitch during the big Soweto derby because of the Lady Gaga concert on November 30.

Afcon LOC chief executive officer, Mvuzo Mbebe, reiterated that the pitch at FNB stadium would be ready for the opening match between Bafana Bafana and Cape Verde.

"The City of Johannesburg is quite advanced with their preparations and we are happy with what we've seen in terms of their training venues that includes Dobsonville, Rand, Orlando and Milpark stadiums.

"This pitch FNB stadium) will be at the standard that we require it to be whether there is going to be a concert or no concert between now and the tournament."

He said that the LOC was comfortable with the plan presented to it by the city. "What is left for all of us is to get the tickets and come to the stadium in large numbers on January 19," he said.

Afcon project coordinator at the City of Joburg, Bongi Bokaba said: "As a city, our community is making sure that we host a successful tournament and we cannot over emphasised the need to make sure that our plans are aligned with those of the LOC."

She said the city had lined up a series of events to make sure that there was maximum visibility and awareness about the tournament.

"Our commitment is to ensure that our residents embrace the Afcon in line with the LOC's call to action which is "eyethu-Be Part of it". We want to use football to build social cohesion in the city because we want Johannesburg to be the City of choice during the tournament," she said.

Johannesburg will host the opening ceremony and opening match on January 19 as well as the final match and the closing ceremony on February 10.

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