PITCHING IN: Bafana coach Gordon Igesund inspects the pitch before last week’s Nelson Mandela Challenge game against Zambia. Soccer fans have been assured the issue of concerts ruining the pitch is being resolved. Picture: THE TIMES
PITCHING IN: Bafana coach Gordon Igesund inspects the pitch before last week’s Nelson Mandela Challenge game against Zambia. Soccer fans have been assured the issue of concerts ruining the pitch is being resolved. Picture: THE TIMES

A LOT of meetings are under way to find solutions to the potential embarrassment that could be caused to the country by a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert scheduled to be held at Soccer City in the middle of next year’s African Nations Cup.

The American rock band is scheduled to play at Soccer City on February 2 but, with the final of the continental showpiece set to be played at the same venue eight days later, there is concern that concert goers could ruin the pitch and embarrass South Africa.

Councillor Chris Vondo, a member of the mayoral committee responsible for community development, told Business Day on Wednesday that numerous discussions between the City of Johannesburg, the 2013 African Nations Cup local organising committee and controversial venue operators Stadium Management SA were under way to try to resolve the impasse.

"I know that there is a concern from the soccer fraternity about the music concerts taking place at Soccer City," Vondo said on Wednesday.

"But I can assure you that all these concerns are going to be addressed and, in fact, meetings have been taking place since the beginning of the week.

"All I can say is that the issue of concerts versus soccer at Soccer City will not be an issue anymore. The 2013 African Nations Cup will played at Soccer City and games will go ahead without any problems."

Vondo would not be drawn on whether an alternative venue could be found for Red Hot Chili Peppers but said the matter was close to finalisation.

An African Nations Cup insider said this week they were fed up with the poor attitude displayed by Stadium Management and it would have been better if the tournament was never taken to Soccer City in the first place.

The controversy around Soccer City began last week when a Nelson Mandela Challenge between Bafana Bafana and Zambia was played on a disastrous pitch after a Linkin Park rock concert left the turf at the 2010 World Cup venue in a shocking condition. There were gaping holes on the pitch after fork lifts drove on the turf while building and dismantling the Linkin Park stage.

Stadium Management executive chairman and CEO Jacques Grobbelaar had insisted on the eve of the encounter that the pitch would be ready the next day, despite its poor condition 24 hours before the match started.

But the patch job Stadium Management did overnight was to no avail and the match was played on a pitch that elicited many complaints from the soccer fraternity.

Grobbelaar said he had a mandate to make the stadium financially viable and he could never say no to music concerts as they bring in high revenue.

The pitch has still not recovered from the Linkin Park concert and was in a poor condition when Kaizer Chiefs hosted Moroka Swallows in a Soweto Derby on Tuesday night.

With Lady Gaga scheduled to perform at the venue a few days before the Soweto Derby between Chiefs and traditional foes Orlando Pirates on December 8, questions have been asked about whether soccer has been replaced by rock concerts at the World Cup venue.

Gauteng sport, arts, culture and recreation MEC Lebogang Maile told Business Day on Wednesday he was trying to facilitate a resolution between all the parties as South Africa could not afford to be distracted ahead of the African Nations Cup.

"We are interested in hosting a successful African Nations Cup next year and all the parties involved here have to find a solution," Maile said on Wednesday.

"We need to sit around the table and discuss this because we cannot afford what is going on.

"Communication is absolutely crucial here so that we do not have this kind of situation.

"It is not a bad thing to have a multipurpose venue but all those events need to be managed properly," he said.

"We have to find a better way of making sure that no event is inconvenienced by the staging of the another at Soccer City."