Celtic call off tourney

      :  Celtic  corporate sponsorship director Ikie Augousti
FRUSTRATED : Celtic corporate sponsorship director Ikie Augousti

A FOUR-TEAM tournament involving English club Fulham and Portuguese giants Benfica set for Bloemfontein next month has been cancelled because of the sub-standard state of the pitch at the Free State Stadium

An advance party from the London-based premier league club, who travelled to inspect the venue and other facilities in the Free State capital, turned down the venue because of the patchy field, officials explained last night.

The decision comes as a blow to football fans in the provincial capital and particularly to Bloemfontein Celtic who were also set to compete in the potential money-spinning two-day event, along with New York Cosmos.

It is the latest in a long-standing saga around facilities for the popular Celtic, who will again be homeless next season because their preferred venue in Bloemfontein remains shut.

Work on the Seisa Ramabodu Stadium, where Celtic's passionate fans create an intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams, has only just started despite the fact the venue was closed more than a year ago for renovations.

This obvious incompetence has been the source of much frustration for the Absa Premiership side who were forced to play most of their home encounters at the main stadium this past season, which they share with the Cheetahs rugby team.

The pitch at the Free State Stadium, which was a World Cup venue in 2010, has been heavily criticised because it is not only used for matches but also for training by the Super Rugby franchise.

Next season Celtic are to move to Botshabelo Stadium, but will have to share the venue with National First Division side Roses United and teams competing in the South African Football Association Second Division.

"If the pitch is over-used it will be yet another challenge facing us," said Celtic's Ikie Augousti, the club's corporate sponsorship director.