JOHANNESBURG - The pitch at the stadium
that hosted last year's World Cup final has been declared unfit
for South Africa's Nations Cup qualifier against holders Egypt
later this month, the country's FA (SAFA) said on Wednesday.
The match has been moved from Soccer City to nearby Ellis
Park with SAFA officials unhappy about the standard of a new 1.5
million rand ($216,900) pitch laid after a recent concert by the
Irish rock band U2 had rendered the previous one unplayable.
The new pitch was used for a top-of-the-table domestic
league match between rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates
last month just seven days after being laid with huge divots
being dug up by tackles and players running a risk of injury.
"We would have preferred to play the game at Soccer City but
the pitch was a huge concern," SAFA spokesman Morio Sanyane told
Egypt had hoped for a postponement of the match, claiming
the shutdown of their domestic league because of the recent
uprising in their country and ousting of president Hosni Mubarak
meant they were not properly prepared.
But the Confederation of African Football said Egypt's
request would only be considered if South Africa agreed to
postpone the match, an idea the home team swiftly rejected.
Defeat for Egypt in the March 26 clash could endanger their
chances of qualifying for the 2012 finals, which are being
co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Egypt, bottom of the four-team section with one point from
their first two matches after a draw with Sierra Leone and
defeat by Niger, have won the last three Nations Cup titles.
South Africa top the standings with four points before the
first of their two Group Seven games against Egypt.
The 11 group winners qualify for the finals along with the
three best second-placed finishers.
More than 80,000 people watched Spain beat Netherlands in
last July's World Cup final at Soccer City in Johannesburg.
Last month more than 90,000 attended the Soweto derby
between the Chiefs and Pirates while more than 100 000 watched
the U2 concert at the cavernous venue in early February.
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