The Greatest International Soccer Tournaments Hosted in SA

8 September 2020 |

South Africa has proven its mettle when it comes to hosting major international sporting events, including soccer tournaments.

There have been ups and downs for the country. Allegations that the South African Football Association bribed its way into hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup somewhat tainted the fond memories we all have of that event. However, despite the questions surrounding the scandal that remain to this day, South Africa has nevertheless staged some impressive soccer spectacles.

On a few occasions, the SA soccer team has also performed well on a global scale. Bafana’s win at the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations will not soon leave our memories.

Let’s go back in time and recount the highlights from three notable international soccer tournaments hosted in South Africa.

1996 Africa Cup of Nations 

It has been widely said that 1996 Afcon was the golden hour of South African soccer. Bafana kicked off strong. They owned the pitch in the opening game against Cameroon at Joburg’s Soccer City, where they won 3-0. Later, in the final, also at Soccer City, South Africa defeated Tunisia 2-0, coming out as the victors – a first continental championship victory for the country. This was thanks to a star performance by Mark Williams. He scored both goals for Bafana after coming off the sub bench 65 minutes into the match. It was a moment of glory made all the finer when then-president Nelson Mandela’s stood by team captain Neil Tovey as he lifted the trophy and cheered for Bafana.

Luke Alfred and Ian Hawkey’s book Vuvuzela Dawn: 25 Sports Stories that Shaped a New Nation includes quotes from Clive Barker, the team’s coach at the time. According to Barker, Mandela often met with him and the Bafana team in private in the months leading up to Afcon to give them “inspiring” talks. The president’s expectations were clear, which Barker said “brought extra pressure”. The team’s win was not only a joyous moment for the nation. It was also a “huge relief” for Barker and Bafana.

2010 FIFA World Cup

South Africans are not likely to ever forget the excitement of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the sheer pride that came with seeing their country host the world’s most popular sports tournament. So much about the 2010 World Cup was nothing if not iconic. Shakira and Freshlyground’s performance of Waka Waka at the Kick-off Celebration Ceremony; K’Naan’s catchy anthem, Wavin’ Flag; the calabash-shaped Cape Town Stadium, which wowed the world; and, of course, the sound of the notorious vuvuzela that became synonymous with the event.

Let’s not leave out one of the most unforgettable moments of the event: Siphiwe Tshabalala’s outstanding opening goal for Bafana Bafana in Johannesburg. Although the end of the match saw the team drawing with Mexico 1-1, that one stand-out goal was enough for South Africans. For them, Bafana were the winners that day.

After that, Bafana Bafana faced Uruguay in Pretoria and lost 0-3. They later played France in Bloemfontein and defeated the shamefaced team 1-2. This performance wasn’t enough to see South Africa through to the knockout stage. Nevertheless, Bafana went out on a high note after this victory. France supporters were less happy; the team’s elimination followed what had been a tumultuous and winless tournament for them.

The excitement carried over into the rest of the tournament all the way to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final in Soccer City, Joburg. Spain played Holland and beat them 1-0 in overtime, taking home the trophy.

2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations South Africa

The 29th Afcon in 2013 saw Bafana Bafana draw nil nil with Cape Verde in the opening game at Soccer City. This was a let-down for South African fans, who had expected more. Bafana bounced back in their following game and defeated Angola 2-0. Come their next match against Morocco, the South Africans were back to drawing; the match ended in a 2-2. However, this was enough to see Bafana through to the quarterfinals, a step further than in the 2010 World Cup.

Bafana were knocked out in the quarterfinals against Mali at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. They lost 3-1 in the nail-biting penalty shootout after an initial 1-1 match draw. The disappointment was palpable; things had looked promising for South Africa earlier. They had been the first to score – Striker Tokelo Rantie had lobbed the ball into the goal just over 30 minutes in.

By this point, Mali had turned up the heat. But at half-time the score had still been 1-0 to SA. The Eagles were not going to give up easily. In the 58th minute Seydou Keita, Mali’s top striker, headed the ball into the South Africans’ net.

With the score still sitting on 1-1 after 90 minutes, the two teams had to play extra time. In the penalties, Siphiwe Tshabalala managed to score a penalty goal for the team, but Mali ultimately crushed South Africa.

The South African team may have fallen short of expectations, however the nation redeemed itself by impressing with its hosting. South African Football Association president Kirsten Nematandani commended the high standard SA had set for Afcons to come.

The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Final took place between Nigeria and Burkina Faso, with Nigeria coming out on top as the victors after winning 1-0.

South Africa has been great in hosting big international soccer tournaments and we believe it’s time for another one.

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