Challenge yardstick for Eastern Cape

All reports Ramatsiyi Moholoa

All reports Ramatsiyi Moholoa

The Eastern Cape provincial government intends using the popular Vodacom Challenge to measure their readiness for the 2010 World Cup.

An initiative of Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, the tournament will be played in Eastern Cape for the first time since its inception in 1999.

The first match in the area will be a Soweto derby where Amabhakabhaka and Amakhosi will battle it out at Port Elizabeth Stadium tomorrow night. The winner will take on English Premiership side Tottenham Hotspur in the final at Loftus on Saturday.

The Eastern Cape 2010 World Cup unit has signed a contract with the organisers of the Challenge to host matches for the next four years. Noxolo Abraham-Ntantiso, Eastern Cape MEC for sport, said they were excited to host the Challenge.

"There is no doubt that it is one of the biggest sporting events. It affords Eastern Cape the golden opportunity to measure our capacity to stage massive events," said Abraham-Ntantiso.

"Many of our people here are over the moon because they have been travelling to Gauteng and other provinces in the past to watch these matches. There is no doubt that the people of Eastern Cape have a passion for football. We call on them to show it once more on Thursday [tomorrow].

"We had a game to promote the World Cup between Kaizer Chiefs and Bloemfontein Celtic in Nelson Mandela Bay in March where the support was incredible. That match has built confidence for more high-profile matches to be brought to Eastern Cape."

The MEC said games of this magnitude will help them to assess the areas where they are still lacking in preparing for the World Cup.

"It will also help us a lot in our preparations for the 2009 Confederations Cup and World Cup, including things like road infrastructure, tourism and accommodation.

"We are happy with the progress for the World Cup. One of the things that we want is to have many legacy projects for our communities.

"We also want to see Eastern Cape continuing to host big sporting events, not only soccer, after 2010," said Abraham-Ntantiso.

The Nelson Mandela Metro Bay Stadium is the only new facility that will be used for both the Confederations Cup and World Cup in the country.

The MEC said the provincial government was committed to settling the R221 million shortfall to complete the multipurpose stadium.