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Soccer Fever - South Africa 3 Years to the World Cup Finals

July 3, 2012

The Soccer World Cup in South Africa - opportunity and challenge for the entire continent. We'll be showing South African Soccer, the managers and architects of the greatest sporting event in African history (April 8).

Kaizer Chiefs FansImage: DW-TV

Over 80,000 spectators in the stadium of Soweto, South Africa's biggest township, raise a deafening roar. The bleachers tremble under the collective dance of the enthusiastic crowds. It's Derby Day. The two most popular soccer teams in Africa will soon take to the field: the Kaizer Chiefs and the Orlando Pirates. It's a sneak preview of the World Cup.

The Pre-Program of the DerbyImage: DW-TV

While rugby and cricket are still the top sports among white South Africans, soccer is the game of choice for the country's black majority. During the days of Apartheid, soccer provided an outlet for the pain and anger bottled up inside the black population. The stadium was a little patch of freedom that the regime allowed the black people - where they could even sing political protest songs at the top of their lungs without fear of reprisals. Today, of course, the stadiums have lost this function. But soccer still casts its spell on the masses. Thousands of aspiring soccer players dream of one day making it into the Premier Soccer League, the PSL. Bafana Bafana, South Africa's national team, is aiming for 2010.

Soccer in SowetoImage: DW-TV

There's a lot left to be done before the next World Cup. Most of South Africa's stadiums have to be expanded or renovated, and construction on four new arenas has only just got underway. In some of the host towns, the infrastructure needs improving to be able to accommodate the big event and the bigger crowds it will draw in 2010. The rising crime rates on the Cape of Good Hope have also given some cause for concern. But all these issues, problems and criticisms have done little to dampen the enthusiasm of the South Africans. The whole country is reveling in a virtually unsinkable optimism.

The Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg before expansionImage: DW-TV

Everyone involved is feeling the extreme time pressure, and it will just keep growing over the next three years. "When you come down to it, we're all doomed to succeed here. In Germany, it was comparatively quite a bit more convenient - we had much more time to get organized. But I think the people here can improvise. They've got lots of pride, and they'll prove they can do it", says Hubert Nienhoff, an architect with Gerkan, Marg and Partners. The Hamburg-based architectural firm is building new stadiums from the ground up in Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth.

Design of King Senzangakhona Stadium in Durban