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Football Legend Maradona Praises S. Africa's World Cup Preparations


Maradona, who is considered one of the best football players in recent times, also dismissed security fears as he toured the Soccer City stadium near Soweto, outside Johannesburg.

With four months to go until the start of the football World Cup in South Africa, two new stadiums are hosting their first matches this weekend leaving only two arenas out of the total of ten yet to be ready. The head coach of the Argentine team, Diego Maradona, has praised the facilities at the end of a five-day inspection visit.

The head coach of Argentina's national football team, Diego Maradona, congratulated those who worked on South Africa's new football stadiums saying they have done a great job.

Maradona, who is considered one of the best football players in recent times, also dismissed security fears as he toured the Soccer City stadium near Soweto, outside Johannesburg.

He says things can happen in this world but he spent a week in South Africa and has seen that the people are good and very friendly. He says he has no doubt that this will be a great World Cup and there will be no problem with security.

Fears over security were heightened after some news media reported that terrorist groups might target South African installations during the World Cup.

This followed an attack on Togo's national team two weeks ago as it traveled to its opening game in the African Cup of Nations in Angola. Two team members were killed and one seriously wounded.

Maradona, who also visited children's teams in poor neighborhoods in several cities, said he had seen with his own eyes that South Africa is a safe country. He hoped his team would eventually play in the Johannesburg stadium.

The 90,000 seat Soccer City is to host the opening and final matches of the month-long World Cup which kicks off on June 11.

South Africa has spent nearly $2 billion building five new stadiums and refurbishing five others for the tournament.

The new stadiums in Cape Town and the northeastern city of Polokwane are hosting their inaugural matches Saturday. Football arenas in six other cities, including Durban and Pretoria, have also been completed and have already hosted games.

Soccer City is also nearing completion with only minor fixtures and the parking lot pavement remaining to be completed. Contractors say they expect to finish in a few weeks.

The last stadium, in the eastern city of Nelspruit, is to be handed over as soon as a new pitch is finished.

South African officials take pride in having completed the stadiums on schedule. They have had to counter doubts over their ability to host the event since the announcement was made that South Africa had been selected to host the first ever football World Cup on African soil.

The government has also invested millions of dollars in upgrading transportation, accommodation and tourism facilities. The event is expected to draw more than 400,000 football fans from around the world.

Concerns over security have been especially hard to dispel due to the country's high crime rate. The government has hired thousands of police officers, created special courts and purchased millions of dollars worth of crowd control equipment for the event.

The World Cup is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs and inject billions of dollars into the economy.

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