Animal attractions, but low-key games in Nelspruit

Animal attractions, but low-key games in Nelspruit

Published Jun. 8, 2010 9:49 a.m. ET

Hoping to attract World Cup fans to the nearby Kruger National Park, the fast growing city of Nelspruit and its new Mbombela Stadium didn't get much help from the draw.

Although World Cup holder Italy is headed to the stadium for a Group F game, it faces outsider New Zealand. None of the other leading title contenders will be anywhere near the city, which is a five-hour drive from Johannesburg.

The other three games being played at the 46,000-seater stadium are: Honduras vs. Chile on June 16; Australia vs. Serbia on June 23; and North Korea vs. Ivory Coast on June 25.

The city always knew it would only get four group games, but it has missed out on the visiting teams with the biggest support, such as England, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as host South Africa. That means World Cup organizers may well struggle to sell tickets for the games.


Seven kilometers (4 miles) from the city center and 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the national park, Mbombela Stadium took 2 1/2 years to build and will be used for football and rugby once the World Cup is over.

The two main features of its design are the 18 roof supports that resemble giraffes looking outwards, and the seating, which is colored like zebra.

The stadium is rectangular with most of the seats covered by roofing. The roof is partly translucent to allow extra light to get in and a six-meter (20-foot) gap between the seats and the roof allows ventilation. The region rarely gets rain in the winter, however, with temperatures usually a mild 23 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit) at that time of the year.

The stadium is named after a local word meaning ``many people gathered together in a small space.'' A school had to be demolished to make space for construction on the understanding that it would be rebuilt somewhere else. An area in Nelspruit was bulldozed to allow room for a temporary school but protesters gathered at the stadium in October demanding explanations why it had not been built.