FIFA and LOC rewards stadium workers

Johannesburg - They have worked for months and sometimes through the night to ensure that South Africa delivers its promise to the world. And today hundreds of men and women who helped build the country's world class stadiums were rewarded for their hard work when the LOC and FIFA announced that each worker will get two complimentary tickets to watch the opening match of the tournament.

Not only will the workers have an opportunity to watch some of the world's finest footballers in action, they will also be able to blow their vuvuzelas and be part of the electrifying atmosphere that is set to occupy the new stadia across the country.

At least 52 000 tickets have been set aside for construction workers to watch the opening match between South Africa and Mexico on 11 June.

The initiative is part of FIFA's ticket fund, that will also see 66 000 World Cup tickets being distributed to several organisations focusing on health, education and environmental issues.

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, speaking to workers at Soccer City stadium on Monday, said the world football body had recognised that not all South Africans would be able to afford tickets for Africa's first ever World Cup.

"So we took a decision that this must be an African world cup and hence FIFA and our official partners are making these tickets available to South Africans," Valcke said.

FIFA also recognised that without the hard work and extra hours put up by the workers, South Africa would probably not have met some of the infrastructure deadlines ahead of the tournament.

"You have not only built stadiums, you build beautiful stadiums, the world is amazed by your work -well done!" said Valcke, who has been in South Africa since 2007 when work in most of the 2010 stadiums was only beginning.

An equally excited LOC CEO Danny Jordaan said the country would be doing an injustice if it did not recognise the stunning work done by the workers on the stadiums across all of the host cities.

"We are here today to make sure that all of you are there when Bafana Bafana take on Mexico on the 11 of June. We recognise your contribution and as the LOC we made many promises that the stadiums will be ready…and you made that possible," Jordaan said.

The distribution of the tickets to the workers will begin on 17 May and some of them cannot wait for the day they finally get to watch world class football in a facility they helped construct.

One of them, Mbongeni Rawana, who has been part of the Soccer City journey since 2007, has never watched Bafana Bafana live at a stadium.

He said being part of the team that has built what is probably regarded as the best stadium on the African continent, has presented him with an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to South Africa's hosting of the much awaited 2010 FIFA World Cup.

"It was not easy, sometimes we would work from early in the morning through to dark just to push the deadline and I'm very happy to have been part of that experience through the end," a visibly thrilled Rawana said.

He will be taking his partner with to see the match many of his friends will probably watch on TV or in fan parks across the host cities. "One day I want to look back and say I was part of that and I want be able to show my son that I was one of the people who built that stadium," he said with a smile on his face.

Another worker Thabane Mdlalose said: "Being part of the opening match is a feeling I cannot describe, I am very happy it was not easy to work on the stadium I must say. We had strikes we fought with our employers but it is all over now and I can only be proud of this work."

The ticket fund initiative will not end when the final whistle is blown for the tournament. The projects are expected to benefit South African beyond the tournament through legacy programmes that will be in place throughout the continent. - BuaNews