SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

23 November 2012

Africa: Expect 'Perfect Pitch' for Afcon Opener

Football fans can expect a carpet-perfect pitch at Johannesburg's FNB Stadium for the opening match of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), says the City of Johannesburg.

The FNB Stadium will host the Afcon opening ceremony and opening match on 19 January, as well as the final match and closing ceremony on 10 February.

The pitch at South Africa's flagship football venue was damaged during a Linkin Park rock concert ahead of the Nelson Mandela Challenge match between Bafana Bafana and Zambia a week ago.

Semi-artificial surface for FNB Stadium

Chris Vondo, member of the City's mayoral committee for community development, 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 Johannesburg's state of readiness for the tournament.

Desso is a sports playing field surface composed of natural grass combined with artificial fibres. The artificial grass fibres are injected 20 centimetres 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 international football tournament to be played on grass pitches partly made up of artificial grass. The system was installed at Nelspruit's Mbombela Stadium and Polokwane's Peter Mokaba Stadium.

According to Vondo, the City of Johannesburg will install the desso after the Soweto derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates on 8 December. There are fears that "the calabash stadium" will resemble a cabbage-patch for the derby because of a Lady Gaga concert taking place there on 30 November.

City of Joburg 'ready for Afcon'

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.

"This pitch 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."

"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 include Dobsonville, Rand, Orlando and Milpark stadiums."

Mbebe 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 for the City of Johannesburg, Bongi Bokaba 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.

Source: SANews.gov.za

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