The Mbombela Stadium was only completed last year and is an interchangeable sports, exhibition and entertainment arena. It is football, however, that will be the main attraction this summer and the stadium is more than capable of catering for the spectacle that will envelope it in June. The ground took a long time to complete as it was built on land that first had to see a school relocated. Now finished, the stadium holds 46 000 and boasts the most intimate atmosphere in the tournament. Supporters are closer to the pitch here than in any other stadium and the ground’s name represents this – Mbombela translates as ‘many people in small space’ and this will certainly make for a fantastic atmosphere. The influence of the nearby Kruger nature reserve can also be seen, with its Zebra patterned seating and its nickname of the ‘Giraffe Stadium’ due to the eighteen huge roof supports that look like giraffe’s legs the ground is certainly in keeping with many people’s idea of South Africa.
Nelspruit lies in the lies in the valley of the Crocodile River and has a small sleepy town feel to it with broad modern streets and fantastic botanical gardens. The main attraction in the area is the world famous Kruger National Park which is not far away from the city and has a mixture of places to stay, from campsites to thatched huts or luxury lodges. There are also many country towns just outside the city such as Sabie or Graskop which are particularly scenic and would make a perfect base for mixing the World Cup with a holiday. If you are staying in the city then there is much to do and the newly converted Castlebridge Farm in the north is a state of the art ‘life style centre’ which boasts art galleries, shops, restaurants and many bars with huge screens ideal for watching the World Cup .
The Mbombela Stadium will only host four group games of this World Cup but will still have a magnificent atmosphere as it will play host to fans from the European super powers such as Italy to the fresh faced new boys of New Zealand. The first game on 16th June sees Honduras play Chile in a game that could see an upset. The second game is the main focus and Italy take on New Zealand, with the eyes of the world watching as the world champions take on a nation making their second appearance in the finals. Australia will also be visiting the area for their group game against Serbia before the final match sees North Korea take on Sven-Goran Eriksson and co in Ivory Coast’s final group game. There may not be games in the final stages here but the Mbombela Stadium promises to be an intimate and beautiful in where to watch these group matches. The Kiwi and Aussie fans will certainly bring life to the city, complementing the carnival that will follow the Ivory Coast and the passion and drama that will come with the Italians. In short, Nelspruit will come alive in June.