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Free State offers intimidating atmosphere

Free State offers intimidating atmosphere

The steep-sided Free State Stadium, one of South Africa's bastions of rugby, is expected to create an intimidating atmosphere at this year's World Cup.
Towering above a lake, zoo and shopping malls, the 46,000-seat stadium also offers fans plenty of opportunity to relax, eat and drink before and after watching games without having to walk too far.
Although rugby and cricket were played on fields close to the same site in the late 19th century, the Free State Stadium was not built until the mid 1950s, opening in April 1956 with a capacity for 12,000 fans. It was then rebuilt in time for the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which South Africa won.
Home of the Cheetahs Super 14 rugby team and Bloemfontein Celtic football club, the ground is a short taxi ride from the city's train station and airport and, once at the ground, fans don't need to go far to find entertainment.
A second tier was added to the main stand for the World Cup, increasing the capacity from 36,500 to 48,000, although that will be restricted for the competition to allow for extra media and VIP seats.
Work began in 2007 to upgrade the stadium to satisfy FIFA's demands and cost 245 million rand ($33 million), most of which was paid out of government funds.
The stadium was one of the grounds used at last year's Confederations Cup and was the semifinal venue where the United States beat European champion Spain 2-0.
Japan will be hoping that its football team won't have the same horrendous experience that its rugby squad did 15 years ago. Playing at the same venue during the rugby World Cup, Japan conceded at least 50 points in losses to Wales and Ireland and then was beaten by New Zealand by a championship record 145-17.
A comparative veteran of South African rugby grounds, the Free State Stadium will stage five group matches and a second round game at the World Cup, including a match between South Africa and France on June 22.


Updated : 2021-07-25 04:29 GMT+08:00