Mbombela Stadium welcomes Black Aces
23 November 2010
Loyal soccer fans in Mpumalanga are in for a treat thanks to a deal that will see their home team, Black Aces, playing five Premier Soccer League fixtures at Mbombela Stadium, one of South Africa's 2010 Fifa World Cup venues.
The stadium is proving to be no white elephant, which was a concern after the World Cup. Orange giraffes, on the other hand ... these dominate the design of the stadium.
Mpumalanga Black Aces are based in Witbank, but an agreement with the Mbombela Local Municipality was formally signed on Thursday for five matches to take place at the African-themed World Cup venue in Nelspruit.
The five matches will feature visiting teams that enjoy some of the strongest support in the country, namely Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns, Bloemfontein Celtic and Moroka Swallows. Sundowns and Chiefs are currently the top two teams in the PSL standings.
Aces initially did not show much interest in making use of the R1.2-billion, 46 000-seater but, as Mbombela 2010 coordinator, Differ Mogale explained, there was a compelling reason to make use of the stadium. "We believe that the overwhelming support from Mpumalanga fans for local games that were played so far this year marketed the stadium so well that Aces had to reconsider," he said.
"Although we don't have a fixed-term contract with Aces, these five games will help them to reassess their agreement with us," Mogale added.
Black Aces' chairperson Mario Morfou said the team wanted to partner with the Mbombela municipality much earlier but had needed to finalise financial arrangements first.
"We're happy that we've reached common ground in our talks because we believe being in the Lowveld will be beneficial to the team," said Morfou.
He said that the municipality would pay for the team's transport and accommodation, while making its money on ticket sales.
Morfou said that if the agreement worked well, Aces management would consider playing 50 percent of the team's games in Nelspruit, and the other half at its home field, Pumas Stadium, in Emalahleni.
Card-carrying supporters based in the Emalahleni will receive free transport to and from the five games at Mbombela.
Hungry for big games
According to Mbombela stadium manager Roelf Kotze, the well-attended games played in the stadium since the World Cup ended in July showed that Mpumalanga sports fans were hungry for big games.
"When Bafana Bafana played Niger in September, fans came in huge numbers and filled the stadium," Kotze said.
"The same thing happened with the rugby game between the Blue Bulls and Pumas in August. Last weekend's BidVest Wits game against Mamelodi Sundowns attracted 14 000 people, compared to other stadiums where PSL games only attract about 3 000 people."
Bafana Bafana have played two internationals at the stadium, and it has treated the national team very well. Apart from the 2-0 African Nations Cup qualifying win over Niger, Bafana opened the stadium on 16 May with a 4-0 thrashing of Thailand.
Mogale said the municipality was also negotiating with BidVest Wits to play another three of their league games at Mbombela Stadium.
"We believe the support they got last Sunday will win them over," Mogale said. "We had just seven days to market the game, but managed to have great support at the stadium, which others in the country have failed to secure in such a short space of time.
"Among the things that make Mbombela Stadium special and that could make more teams interested in using it as their home field is the holiday atmosphere and beauty of the area, and the fact that Mpumalanga residents are mad about live sport," Mogale said.
Mpumalanga Black Aces will play against:
- Kaizer Chiefs on 22 December
- Bloemfontein Celtics on 14 January
- Orlando Pirates on 6 February
- Mamelodi Sundowns on 2 March
- Moroka Swallows on 21 May