Magic returns to Orlando

There are 563 days to go until the 2010 World Cup, but South Africans are already reaping the rewards of hosting the quadrennial soccer festival.

There are 563 days to go until the 2010 World Cup, but South Africans are already reaping the rewards of hosting the quadrennial soccer festival.

Yours truly had the honour of being at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday night when Orlando Pirates hammered Thanda Royal Zulu 4-2.

Rebuilt by the City of Johannesburg as a training venue for the 2010 World Cup, the facility is one of the first legacy projects for the 32-nation tournament.

And it's majestic.

Despite the fact that the former mecca of South African soccer is not yet complete, there is no shred of doubt that the facility will be one of the best in the world.

Taking Saturday's game to Isigodi saka Maminzela - where some are drowned or a hell hole, if you will - once more proved that staging soccer matches in the townships will help improve the turnout at the stadiums.

What a great night it was, both in terms of the awesome soccer displayed on the field, and the massive support and incredible financial rewards for Sowetans.

The atmosphere in the stadium was magnificent, but one got a bit worried when the crowd started testing the facility by stomping in the stands. It reminded me of the passionate Siwelele, the Bloem Celtic fans.

Residents of Orlando and Noordgesig, just around the corner, will be all smiles today after raking in some good money at their taverns and shebeens.

Some turned the spaces in and around their yards into parking lots, an innovation which impressed some of the visiting foreign media.

For the record, the foreign media were in the country for the 2009 Confederations Cup draw, which took place in Sandton earlier in the day.

The impressive turnout at Orlando on Saturday once again highlighted the need for our clubs to also consider using township venues such as this, especially with the on-going global financial crisis.

Supporters do not have to spend sleepless nights thinking about the financial burden of travelling to faraway stadiums as it is now just a short trip to watch their heroes in their own backyard, almost literally.

Sowetans and other South Africans who came to Orlando showed Fifa and the entire world that we are definitely ready for the World Cup, let alone the Confederation Cup. Woza 2010.

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