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South Africans 'get the feel' of World Cup at Soccer City launch

By Kim Norgaard, CNN
  • South Africa's new World Cup stadium Soccer City launched in final of domestic competition
  • Organizers sell 82,000 tickets for venue's opening match in Johannesburg
  • Transport problems mar an otherwise successful day at Nedbank Cup final
  • Soccer City will host opening match and final at 2010 World Cup starting June 11
  • FIFA World Cup
  • South Africa
  • Africa
  • FIFA
  • Soccer

(CNN) -- It wasn't President Zuma or the 80,000 fans making noise, waving flags and blowing vuvuzela trumpets that captured the moment. It was the signs declaring: "Feel it. It's here."

The "it" is World Cup fever.

Saturday was a special day for South Africa as the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, built for the opening and closing matches of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, hosted its first game.

The Nedbank Cup is South Africa's domestic knockout competition, and two top-flight teams -- AmaZulu and Bidvest Wits -- competed for a final purse of six million rand (roughly $800,000).

These two clubs are not heavyweights in South African football, finishing ninth and 10th in the Premier Soccer League table. When they last met in last November there were only 1,000 spectators at the game.

Panorama: Experience a 360-degree view of Soccer City

A far different scene awaited the teams on Saturday as about 82,000 tickets were sold for the final.

But the real game wasn't on the pitch. Off the field it was a test for South Africa and the nation's World Cup preparations. It was a dry run for the games that will be here in less than three weeks, with the hosts launching the first such tournament to be held on the continent in the opening match against Mexico on June 11.

Transport systems, movement of fans and general atmosphere were under scrutiny. All except transport were successful.

Soweto was also hosting a semifinal of the Southern Hemisphere's Super 14 rugby competition on the same day at nearby Orlando Stadium.

Unfortunately, the City of Johannesburg placed the "park and ride" facilities for the rugby game at the football ground.

It was a disastrous decision, as the ensuing traffic jam delayed kickoff of the Soccer City match by 30 minutes and stranded supporters of both games in their cars for hours.

Once the football supporters finally arrived at their destination, the mood inside the stadium was electric.

Some 80,000 fans waving flags, cheering and blowing vuvuzela horns was an early taste of what to expect during the World Cup.

And it was a day to remember for the supporters of Bidvest Wits. Their team, based at a Johannesburg university and nicknamed "The Clever Boys," beat AmaZulu 3-0 to win the cup for the first time since 1978.

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