"The safety of our supporters is a priority".
This was the declaration by the Premier Soccer League (PSL) that was transmitted through giant monitors at yesterday’s MTN8 Cup final at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
The message was proclaiming that the PSL had learnt a lesson after the death of a Kaizer Chiefs fan during a pitch invasion in the excitement of Amakhosi clinching the Absa Premiership title at the same venue in May.
A change of plan by the PSL and the municipality was evident in the heightened security measures evident at the stadium.
Scores of security marshals, police and traffic officers were conspicuous among the throngs of fans who had converged for the sold-out final.
A force of more than 700 security personnel – comprising some 200 private and PSL security members and 500-odd police officers – were deployed at the venue.
A military chopper circled over the iconic 2010 Fifa World Cup venue for most of the time, clearly observing events from the sky.
The hectic security activity at the stadium was in sharp contrast to an atmosphere that gave little sense of the major cup final – featuring arguably the country’s most followed club in the country – that the Windy City was hosting.
Instead, it was rugby World Cup fever that was in the air upon touchdown at the city’s airport yesterday morning.
There were signs everywhere of this fever, with locals walking around in Springbok jerseys and street hawkers selling Bok memorabilia.
But the scenery changed less than 10km away from the airport, with the sounds of blaring vuvuzelas reverberating in the city centre.
It was a case of soccer and rugby fighting for space on the weekend when the globe had just caught rugby World Cup fever.
But Chiefs’ famous gold-and-black colours dominated on a day when South Africans demonstrated that they belonged to a sports-mad nation.
Pockets of red-and-white Ajax colours added to the electric atmosphere at the stadium, which forms the centrepiece in the home town of Safa president Danny Jordaan. The weather played along despite rain showers in the morning leading up to the game.
Despite a slightly chilly wind, water sports enthusiasts took to the lake behind the stadium with boats and kayaks.
This completed the remarkably picturesque scene around the arena that was built from scratch for the 2010 global soccer showpiece.