By FOCUS REPORTER
THE Vodacom Challenge will be heading to Mbombela for the first time in the tournament’s history this year as Orlando Pirates FC take on Tottenham Hotspur at the unique Mbombela Stadium on July 19.
The venue has become a favourite among South African fans after it hosted matches in the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, and since then has seen the likes of the national team, Bafana Bafana, as well as Premier Soccer League (PSL) sides Moroka Swallows, Bidvest Wits and Mpumalanga Black Aces all call the stadium home.
The return to Mbombela will also bring fond memories for Orlando Pirates FC, who claimed their third trophy of the 2010/11 PSL season when they beat Black Leopards 3-1 in the final of the Nedbank Cup that was held in the city at the end of May.
What has been a feature of matches played in Mbombela is the magnificent crowds that are drawn to games and Ronny Moyo, stadium spokesman, says they are certain it will be another ‘full house’ for the Vodacom Challenge encounter.
“It is a great honour and a privilege for us to host a match of this magnitude between two such prestigious sides as Orlando Pirates FC and Tottenham Hotspur, and in such a wonderful competition as the Vodacom Challenge too,” Moyo says.
“The people of Mbombela have proven over the last 12 months that they are passionate about the game of football and we can guarantee organisers of the Vodacom Challenge that the match between Pirates and Tottenham will be sold out, so we urge fans to get their tickets early to avoid disappointment.”
But Mbombela will provide more than the 90 minutes of football for the visiting fans, with the area having become a hotbed for what is now termed ‘sports tourism’. Fans want to watch their favourite teams, but they also like to take in the local attractions before and after the match, and Mbombela and the province of Mpumalanga has plenty to offer.
“The concept of sports tourism and event economics are two operational models that have ushered the city and the Province on a new business era. We have always had a lot to offer visitors, but hosting matches at the Mbombela Stadium has given us a focused event to help promote our other wonderful attractions.”
The Mpumalanga province is famous for the Panorama Route, which not only provides dramatic backdrops, but also some of the best adrenalin enhancing adventures in the country, and the Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon of its kind in the world.
The mysterious Echo Caves and sensational view from God’s Window are two more must-see attractions in the province. And as Moyo explains, Mbombela is uniquely positioned to offer excursions into neighbouring countries too.
“Mbombela is just 200-kilometres from Mozambique and Swaziland, so tourists can have breakfast in Maputo, lunch in Swaziland and return home for dinner in Mbombela. Also, the stadium is just 60-kilomtres from the Kruger National Park, an easy excursion for visitors,” Moyo says.
But for all the wonderful delights of the province, the focus for fans will be on the match between Orlando Pirates FC and Tottenham Hotspur at the magnificent Mbombela Stadium, which hosted the likes of Italy, Chile and Cote d’Ivoire during the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
It’s Zebra-seating and Giraffe-like supports give the stadium a very ‘African’ feel, but more than the aesthetics, it is a great place to watch football, with stands that are close to the action.
The venue, with a capacity of 46 000, was officially opened on May 16, 2010, for an international friendly match between South Africa and Thailand, which the home side won 4-0.
Tickets for the July 19 encounter can be purchased from all Computicket, Shoprite, Checkers and Checkers Hyper outlets nationwide, with fans urged to get their tickets early to avoid the disappointment of missing out on seeing Orlando Pirates FC and Tottenham Hotspur go head-to-head. Tickets are priced at R50 (Grand Stand – Upper & Lower; East Stand – Upper & Lower; North and South Stands – Upper & Lower) and R80 (Grand Stand – Premier; East Stand – Premier).
For further information, please visit – www.vodacomchallenge.com