World Cup 2010 Preview: Mangaung/Bloemfontein

World Cup 2010 Preview: Mangaung/Bloemfontein

The artistic city of Mangaung/Bloemfontein is the provincial capital of the Free State Province, and home to some of the country’s most fanatical football supporters.

The Free State Stadium will play host to a number of group games at the FIFA World Cup, as well as one of last 16 matches. The stadium was given a plush new look for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. It hosted the memorable semi-final match between Spain and USA where the latter secured one of the biggest surprises of the tournament by sending the European champions packing in front of a capacity crowd.

The city itself is characterised by its open spaces, which reflect the openness of its people who excude a unique blend of rural tranquility and vibrant city life.

Mangaung means “Place of the Cheetahs” in SeSotho, which is one of South Africa’s 11 official languages. Bloemfontein literally means ‘fountain of flowers’ in Dutch.

The Golden Gate National Park in the eastern Free State has sandstone cliffs, which illuminate in gold hues when the sun strikes the exposed cliffs. The Vredefort Dome is the oldest impact crater in the world, dating back two billion years and the expansive Gariep Dam is a local favourite among the landlocked people of the Free State and Gauteng.

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Football
In South Africa, Bloemfontein is renowned as home of some of the country’s most decorated and colourful football supporters. Bloemfontein Celtic is the most popular football side from the city with its famous clan of supporters, known as Siwelele. The team’s playing kit is very similar to that of Scottish side, Celtic, with green and white horizontal stripes.

Football in Bloemfontein was first played in 1891, when the territory was an independent Boer republic, known as the “Oranje Free Staat”. Famous clubs like Aberdeen, Dundee United, Newcastle United, Ajax Amsterdam and Eintracht Frankfurt have played tour matches in the territory.

Stadium
The Free State Stadium was given a plush new look for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. It hosted the memorable semi-final match in which USA secured one of the biggest surprises of the tournament by sending reigning European champions Spain packing in front of a capacity crowd.

The Free State Stadium was upgraded from a capacity of 38,000 to 45,000 during the refurbishments. It has hosted numerous major football and rugby union matches, and Bloemfontein’s natives are renowned for their passion for sport. While the former played second fiddle to the latter for decades, football’s popularity explosion - aided by the emergence of Bloemfontein Celtic - is changing this.