By: Tawanda Mutasa
Southern Africa is a large subset of the continent, containing more than a quarter of African countries. It is therefore shocking to discover the region’s five largest stadia are all focused in three countries. Here they are.
Named for the First National Bank, the FNB Stadium is Africa and Southern Africa’s largest stadium, as well as the world’s thirteenth largest. With a capacity that grew from 80000 to 94,736 for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, this venue has seen allot of history.
It was in this stadium Nelson Mandela made his first speech after being released from prison. It went on to be the same venue his memorial service was held. The memorial service for Mandela’s fellow comrade, Chris Hani was also held at FNB stadium.
South Africa’s first and only AFCON victory was played at this stadium in 1996. In 2010, the opening match as well as the finals were played at Soccer City.
FNB Stadium is currently home to Kaizer Chiefs FC. Outside sports, the stadium has hosted music icons such as Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Cassper Nyovest, and Rihanna. Religious leaders including the notorious Shepherd Bushiri have hosted events at FNB stadium.
ELLIS PARK STADIUM
With a capacity of 62,567, Ellis Park is the second largest stadium in South Africa and the region. It is South Africa’s principle rugby stadium, although soccer and cricket have been played there as well.
South Africa’s historic 1995 Rugby World Cup win was played at Ellis Park. The stadium hosted a number of FIFA World Cup matches in 2010, including one quarter final.
Outside sports, musicians such as Whitney Huston and Janet Jackson have performed at this venue. Ellis Park is currently home to the Golden Lions Rugby Team.
NATIONAL HEROES STADIUM
The first and one of only two stadiums not in South Africa on this list, The National Heroes Stadium is Zambia’s biggest stadium. The venue can hold up to 60 000 people. It was named for the Zambian national team that perished in a 1993 plane crush.
National Heroes Stadium was officially opened in 2015. In the last six years, it has hosted countries such as Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.
NATIONAL SPORTS STADIUM
The last non-South African stadium on this list, National Sports Stadium is located in Harare Zimbabwe. Opened in 1987, the stadium has a capacity of 60 000.
The venue hosted the 1995 edition of the All Africa Games. In 2010, Zimbabwe played a friendly against Brazil at the same venue.
Outside sports, the National Sports stadium has hosted musicians such as Akon and Sean Paul. It is currently home to local football club, CAPS United fc.
Located in Pretoria, Odi Stadium is the region’s fifth biggest stadium. It has a capacity of 60000.
Unfortunately, like many South African stadia, Odi has fallen into disuse after the FIFA World Cup. With nearby Ellis Park and FNB stadia being the venue of choice for most matches, Odi has largely decayed. Government authorities have never released a statement addressing the future of South Africa’s third largest stadium.
WHAT ABOUT BOTSWANA?
Unfortunately, Botswana does not have a stadium that comes close to being in the top ten. Currently, the biggest stadium is the Francistown Stadium, which has a capacity of 27 000. If Botswana hopes to successfully bid to host the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations, a bunch of upgrades should be in the pipeline.