World Cup legacy boosts South African league

CAPE TOWN - South Africa has enjoyed one of its most exciting domestic seasons with bigger crowds flocking to iconic venues to watch games played on high quality pitches thanks to the facilities used for the 2010 World Cup.

"The legacy of the World Cup has been proven by the standard of the league games we've seen this season," said Kjetil Siem, the former Norwegian television executive who has run South Africa's professional league for the last four years.

"There can be no doubt we now have one of the best developing leagues in the world. We are now in the top 15 of the world for sure."

In the build-up to last year's finals, many people questioned the country's ability to stage such a high-profile tournament amid concerns about whether stadiums would be ready on time after strikes among construction workers.

The crime rate and traffic congestion were also concerns whilst a pay dispute involving stewards forced police to take over security at some stadiums soon after the matches began.

However, in the event the month-long soccer extravaganaza passed without any major incident and was declared a great success even though South Africa became the first host nation not to get past the first stage of a World Cup.

Bafana Bafana have recovered from that setback with their FIFA world ranking now up to 38 from 90 in April 2010.


South Africa are also set to qualify for the next African Nations Cup after failing to reach the 2010 edition in Angola.

Carlos Alberto Parreira's successor as South Africa coach, Pitso Mosimane, has sought to continue the experienced Brazilian's work by keeping most of his team in place.

"Perhaps I don't have the same pressures as being the coach of a host nation at a World Cup but as local coach I've got my own responsibilities now that I have the Bafana Bafana job," Mosimane told Reuters in an interview.

"Like him, I want to play like the world plays, like modern football is played. But I've put my own innovations into the team too."

However, the domestic game has profited the most from the World Cup with clubs making use of the new stadiums.

"It is an extremely tough league with a lot of good players and some very well organised teams," Orlando Pirates Dutch coach Ruud Krol said after guiding his side a league and cup double.

The Pirates claimed the title on goal difference from Ajax Cape Town on a dramatic final day three weeks ago.

Ajax, coached by Dutchman Foppe de Haan, drew good crowds to the new Cape Town World Cup stadium and the other new venues in Polokwane, Nelspruit and Durban were also used for league games.

The National Cup final, in which Pirates came from behind to beat second division Black Leopards 3-1, drew a capacity 42,000 crowd to the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on 28 May.