4/30/2021 12:00:00 AM
Free State Stadium has a rich history in South African football
PIC: Free State Stadium
The historic Free State Stadium will host a Nedbank Cup final for the first time in 2021, becoming the 10th different venue for South Africa’s biggest knockout decider in the past 13 years.
The 42,000-seater ground has been host to some of the biggest matches ever played on South African soil, and now gets the opportunity to stage the Nedbank Cup final as TTM and Chippa United battle for the right to be crowned champions on May 8.
Finals at the Bloemfontein venue have been rare in the past, but Nedbank have continued their commitment to take their competition finale around the country, with Nelson Mandela Bay, Polokwane, Durban, Soweto and Cape Town all playing host in the last six years.
The Free State Stadium has hosted the decider in South Africa’s FA Cup in the past, when it staged the 2004 final as Moroka Swallows defeated Manning Rangers 3-1.
Rangers took the lead through striker Keryn Jordan, who was on loan at the club from Swallows, as he netted from the penalty spot.
Lungisani Ndlela leveled for The Birds, before they wrapped up the game late on with strikes by Samuel Ngobeni and Dennis Lota, with another penalty, which gave coach Gavin Hunt’s side the victory.
The first ever football game at the Free State Stadium was played on September 22, 1985 when home side Bloemfontein Celtic defeated Kaizer Chiefs 4-2 in front of 40,000 fans.
The first ever goal scored there was by Chiefs’ Zebulon Nhlapo after only three minutes, but Celtic roared back to win the game.
The Free State Stadium also hosted seven matches during the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament that lives long in the memory of every South African as Bafana Bafana lifted the trophy for the only time to date.
South Africa did not play at the venue, but the likes of Zambia, Ghana and Egypt all did in what was a great festival of football.
The stadium was also used during the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, where Bafana Bafana featured in a 2-0 pool stage loss to Spain, while later beat the United States in a semifinal.
Brazil also featured at the venue as they claimed an epic 4-3 success over Egypt that will go down as one of the now defunct competition’s best ever matches
That was all the precursor to 2010 FIFA World Cup, where the venue again featured prominently, including Bafana Bafana’s famous 2-1 victory over France that took them to within a whisker of qualification for the knockout phase.
There were six matches in all played in Bloemfontein, including Germany’s 4-1 success over England in the second round.
Nigeria, Cameroon and Switzerland were among the other major nations to play at the venue,
That was not the first global showpiece to be played at the venue as matches were hosted during the 1995 Rugby World Cup that was won by the Springboks,including the 145-17 victory for New Zealand over Japan. That remains the most points scored in a World Cup match.
The venue was home to Premier Soccer League club Bloemfontein Celtic before they moved back to the more compact Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium.
The Free State Stadium was originally built in 1955 and used for rugby, athletics and cycling. It is owned by the Mangaung Metro.
Football was first recorded as having been played in Bloemfontein in 1891 and international clubs such as Aberdeen, Dundee United (both Scotland), Newcastle United (England), Ajax Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany) played in the city
NEDBANK CUP FINAL VENUES
2013-Moses Mabhida Stadium
2014-Moses Mabhida Stadium
2015-Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
2016-Peter Mokaba Stadium
2017-JMoses Mabhida Stadium
2018-Cape Town Stadium
2019-Moses Mabhida Stadium
2021-Free State Stadium