There’s certainly nothing conventional about the Mbombela 2010 FIFA World Cupâ„¢ Stadium – dubbed Africa’s wildest stadium.

The nickname’s not in reference to any noisy, boisterous football fans, as more laid back and easy-going folks than the province of Mpumalanga’s locals you would be hard-pressed to find.

Instead it’s a homage to one of the things South Africa, and in particular the Mpumalanga province, is world-renowned for – its abundant wildlife – which strongly influences the stadium’s design.

As World Cup visitors approach the Mbombela stadium next year they will curiously see giant orange giraffes standing imperiously ready to welcome them.

Contrary to popular international belief, animals don’t usually roam the urban streets in South Africa. But at the Mbombela stadium giant giraffes are indeed found in the inner city, as the stadium’s roof columns towering overhead are distinctively shaped like giant orange giraffes which dominate the stadium’s façade.

And the wildlife theme doesn’t stop there, as the spectator seating is criss-crossed black and white to resemble zebra prints, while traditional Ndebele paintings light up the stadium’s meeting rooms, foyer and lounge areas.

And if the giant orange giraffes didn’t catch your eye, the stadium’s corridors light up with psychedelic lime green, mellow yellow, sky blue and electric orange walls that will have World Cup players reaching for their designer shades next year.

Conventional it certainly isn’t, but with its dollops of colour, flair and imagination the stadium will certainly stand out at world sport’s biggest showpiece.

Rather than simply an eye-catching showstopper, the stadium’s a fantastic football venue, compact with great views and comfortable spaces for teams, spectators, media and broadcasters.

With the pitch newly laid, it’s 43 540 seats already installed, public address system and giant screen in place, Mbombela stadium’s just weeks away from completion and chomping at the bit to showcase its warmth, vitality and the vibrance of its people to the world next June.

The future didn’t always look literally as bright as it does now, as the city authorities dealt with a myriad of construction strikes and disputes. But despite the expected challenges of a project of such a major nature, the city and the workers have excelled and the stadium’s a real bushveld gem.

The city’s first citizen, Mbombela mayor Lassy Chiwayo, perfectly epitomises the easy-going, friendly nature of the locals and he is delighted with what the city and province has achieved as it measures up to the challenge of being a FIFA World Cup Host City.

“This is really exciting. For us this is a story of commitment, resilience and hard work. There are many unsung heroes who have made this possible. I want to pay tribute to the construction workers and to the community, who threw their weight behind us. This new baby towering above us symbolises hope. We’re hoping this tournament will act as a stimulus for economic and social development,” said Chiwayo.

He said it was important to the city and province that its rich cultural diversity preserved over many years was showcased during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. And he stressed that with strategically placed neighbours Mozambique and Swaziland intimately involved, Mbombela was well-placed to deliver on the promise of “a distinctively African FIFA World Cup”.

DATED: 29th September 2009