Open field: The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. Photo: South Africa Tourism
Ivory Coast vs Portugal on 15 June
At: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
It’s a 46,500-seater stadium which overlooks the North End Lake. It’s nicknamed The Sunflower: The roof is made of white “petals”, making it look like a flower.
It’s the best city to get close to nature
The Addo Elephant National Park just outside Port Elizabeth gives you a glimpse of the “real” Africa without too much stress. If the 450-odd elephants—not to mention the big five and various antelope—are not enough of a wildlife magnet, venture out to the sea to spot a whale. Book a tour online at www.addoelephant.com
Harbour tales: The Victoria and Albert Waterfront. Rodger Bosch / AFP
England vs Algeria on 18 June
First semi-final on 6 July
At: Green Point Stadium
The exterior of this beautiful stadium, which seats 69,000, is covered with noise-reducing cladding. Cheer away.
It’s the best city to sight see
Table Mountain (www.tablemountain.net). Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens (www.sanbi.org). Cape Town Castle (www.castleofgoodhope.co.za). Robben Island, the site of Nelson Mandela’s incarceration (www.robben-island.org.za). And the wine lands. Whether you’re a nature junkie or a history buff, or simply interested in your reds and whites, this is the best of the venues to plug in to your interest segment. There’s so much to see here you might want to skip the match!
Diamond city: Jo’burg is also known as Jozi and eGoli. Gianluigi Guercia / AFP
Brazil vs Ivory Coast on 20 June
Final on 11 July
At: Soccer City Stadium
The design of the stadium is inspired by the calabash, a typically African pot. The original stadium was the venue for Mandela’s first speech in Johannesburg after his release from prison. The upgraded stadium, which looks fabulous when lit up at night, seats 94,000.
It’s the best city to break free
If the adrenalin rush of battling through Africa’s busiest city isn’t a high enough for you, try a 100m bungee jump overlooking the sprawling panorama of Soweto. If the sight doesn’t take your breath away, the jump—between two cooling towers—certainly will. Book ahead at www.orlandotowers.co.za
Jo’burg is also the best base for matches in northern towns of Nelspruit, Polokwane and Rustenburg, which have limited facilities for travellers.
Granite history: The Voortrekker Monument.
Chile vs Spain on 25 June
At: Loftus Versfeld Stadium
A sporting venue since 1903 and constantly upgraded since 1948, it can seat 50,000. South Africa’s national football team, Bafana Bafana, achieved its first-ever victory over a European side here when they beat Sweden 1-0 in 1999.
It’s the best city to soak in some history
The story of South Africa is encapsulated in Pretoria. The Voortrekker Monument (www.voortrekkermon.org.za) is a massive granite structure built in 1937 to commemorate the Great Trek of Afrikaners from the Cape in the mid-19th century. The city is also home to the Union Buildings, the centre of the new, democratic government of the country.
Sidekicks: The Durban City Hall. Photo: South Africa Tourism
Portugal vs Brazil on 25 June
Second semi-final on 6 July
At: Moses Mabhida Stadium
The 70,000-seater Moses Mabhida Stadium is crowned by a grand arch. If the match isn’t exciting enough, ride a cable car to the highest point of the arch (106m) for a stunning aerial view of the city.
It’s the best city ro chill
The warmest seas, the sunniest beaches and drinks at the popular Joe Cool’s (www.joecools.co.za) may make you want to linger here long after the final whistle has been blown.
KICK-OFF TO SOUTH AFRICA
So who’s going for the Fifa World Cup?
Mostly high-profile corporate heads, most of them from Mumbai. In this case, money and opportunity speak louder than traditional passion for the game, as found in Kerala or West Bengal. And, interestingly, many father-son duos.
Who’s organizing the packages?
Cutting Edge Events is the official tour operator appointed by Fifa. SOTC Sports is also allowed to provide packages since it is the tour operator for Emirates, which is Fifa’s official travel partner.
What do the packages include?
Match tickets, airline tickets and accommodation. The packages start from Rs1,33,900 per person on twin-sharing basis (group match ticket, economy class air tickets and three nights accommodation) and go up to Rs4,29,900 per person on twin-sharing basis (semi-final and final match tickets, economy-class air tickets and seven nights accommodation). The Indian traffic is likely to be split into two: One group that heads out for the early group matches to make the most of the bargain prices, and the other that chooses the premium semis and finals packages.
What about visas?
You don’t need a traditional visa. The South African mission in India is issuing free “event visas”, valid for 90 days, to anyone who has proof of purchase of a Fifa match ticket. You can apply for an event visa at the South African missions in Mumbai and New Delhi from 9am to noon, between Monday and Friday. However, the high commission may demand a discretionary refundable deposit of Rs40,000 from any traveller.
Are match tickets still available?
Yes. 90,000 tickets, the last lot, went on sale on 28 May. Priced too high for much of the local population, their primary target market is overseas. Check www.fifa.com for the latest status or to buy tickets online.
Do the incentives and packages indicate sports tourism is moving into the big league in India?
Alas, we still seem to be fixated on cricket. But the Fifa World Cup, the world’s biggest sporting event, is certainly making inroads into our sporting consciousness.