The Mbombela Stadium has relaid the playing surface for the third time fuelling further criticism from South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup sceptics.

The pitch was dug up twice last year following inadequate results but has been replaced using only rye grass and has germinated well, to the relief and delight of the city’s World Cup organisers.

Earlier this month, local and international journalists visited the Mbombela Stadium as part of the ‘100 Days to the 2010 FIFA World Cup’ countdown, were stunned to see a patch of dry sand - instead of a pitch - at the stadium that will host four first round FIFA World Cup matches in under three months time.

Nearly two weeks later, the new $140 million, 43,500-seater stadium is sporting lush green turf which has thrilled Mbombela Municipality's 2010 Co-ordinator Differ Mogale.

He told FIFA.com: “We laid the new pitch last Friday, using rye grass completely, and by Wednesday it was germinating well. We’ve had our challenges, but we’re delighted that we now have a great pitch, which come the tournament will be amongst the best in the world.”

Mogale praised the work of FIFA pitch consultant Richard Hayden, who personally oversaw the most recent efforts to iron out the stadium’s pitch problems.

He added: “In the past we relied on pitch consultants, but rather than simply making recommendations Richard Hayden and his team have been personally on-site with us every day over the last few weeks, getting onto tractors and showing our team just what needed to be done.

“We’re very happy with the results, with the province’s Premier (David Mabuza) even popping into the stadium this week to see the progress for himself. We’ll now give the pitch a few weeks to strengthen and while it should be fine to play on in the next six weeks, we will wait until after the first week of May to stage our first high-level test event at the stadium.”

Dr. Danny Jordaan, Chief Executive Officer of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa, was delighted that the Mbombela Municipality had been able to solve its pitch problems.

He said: “I am extremely happy with the effort made by everyone in Mbombela to overcome the pitch challenges and to ensure the stadium is ready for the FIFA World Cup. Credit must go to the Mbombela Municipality and its mayor Lassy Chiwayo.

“With its orange giraffe columns and black and white zebra seats, the Mbombela Stadium is one of the most distinctive and unique stadiums in FIFA World Cup history. We’re confident the stadium will now be ready in good time and that World Cup fans will be able to experience World Cup football in one of our country’s most picturesque and famous provinces.”

The Mbombela Stadium is just a few kilometres from the Kruger National Park tourist attraction.

It will host matches between Australia against Serbia, Korea DPR versus the Ivory Coast, Honduras against Chile and Italy versus New Zealand during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Posted on 12/03/2010