I’ve considered blogging about Soccer City before buts it’s a difficult location to blog about. You can’t just go there on a random Tuesday afternoon and hope to feel the same vibe.
The stadium was built in the late 1980s by the bank FNB for the express use as a soccer stadium to house the impressive fan bases of the main two Soweto association football teams, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. The original stadium held 80000 fans. One of the coolest things about the this place (well, for me!) was the camera angle they used from the one corner that panned across the the field. With the upgrade, this angle has been lost. If you’re an association football fan, you know what I’m talking about…
The stadium is important to our modern history. Mandela addressed the people for the first time after being in jail for 27 years at the original venue on 13 February 1990. Many people recount stories of how they packed their way into that stadium in any way possible just to catch a glimpse of that mythical human being. I found it quite funny that U2 performed here on that exact date in 2011. This was purely a coincidence and Bono had no intention on deliberately doing this. Just not really. The stadium also hosted the funeral for Chris Hani in 1993 and was the venue when South Africa won the 1996 African Cup of Nations.
FNB Stadium had a major facelift before the 2010 World Cup and now is probably the most beautiful stadium in the world. It’s been built with the greatest intentions possible as well. But we will get to that point later. I have been to the stadium for a LOT of concerts. The best experience I’ve had was for Coldplay where eight of us wore (yellow) t-shirts spelling out the word Coldplay. We were also right up against the railing. If you look closely, you can definitely see me in the video for “Paradise.” If you don’t see me, you’re obviously not looking hard enough. The best concert is probably The Eagles due to their impressive back catalogue and their finesse shown when performing.
Let’s focus on Linkin Park.
I am not their biggest fan.
There’s just something about them that never hooked me. Their music utilised all that the modern era of music had to offer. Their lyrics are extremely accessible and flawlessly delivered. They have come out with some stunning songs for their time and this has what has gained them a following across the intellectual spectrum. The songs work and they speak to the basest of human emotions. As a teen, these songs would talk to you.
I was not a normal teenager (Editor’s Note: You’re not a normal adult either hahahahaaaaa.) I was too busy appreciating music from the opposite end of the Atlantic. These American upstarts were not for me. Linkin Park was like that kid that’s supposed to be wearing glasses but he doesn’t wear them just to be cool. But I saw right through them.
Then I saw them live and was blown away.
I’m still not a fan but that is a show that spoke to the soul that exists somewhere within my body.
It’s the first time I actually understood Linkin Park. They seem to exist on a much higher intellectual level than most of their fans and the music that they produce is nothing short of brilliant. The accessibility of their lyrics meant that a wide range of fans attended the concert. This included many that I really wanted to punch in the eye. But that was okay. Zen…
What hit me at the concert was how technically superb it was. The way they produced the music was what attracted me. They know music and they know it well. The beauty of the songs comes through in how they utilise the absolute basics and then craft it together to produce a sound that either works or does not. If you scrutinise it deeply, there are a lot of elements that don’t make the most sense. But these have been picked and chosen to work as a whole.
The use of influences from the early 90s to modern day innovations is all there. The songs take it all in and just create this exceptional sound. The lyrics, as mentioned, are extremely accessible, vague yet specific. When they sing: “Shut up, Shut up, Shut up when I’m talking to you,” in One Step Closer, you have some of the world’s simplest lyrics but ones that are so powerful and effective.
The one thing I did not pick up was the true meaning. Linkin Park was the soundtrack to many angst-filled youths. Their music helped people through some tough times and gave so many a sense of belonging in the world. Our generation would be very different without their music. I didn’t get that. Linkin Park never got me through anything. I guess I’m just a robot.
It was definitely worth the price of the ticket.
I don’t know if the traffic after the concert was worth it.
Due to my expert knowledge of the Jozi CBD mixed with lots of luck and ignorance, it took me ten minutes to get from the CBD to Soccer City. This was at about 16h30. I cannot divulge this route due to my hipster tendencies and my hope that this route will never go mainstream and I will be able to easily access the stadium for every subsequent concert.
Getting out of the parking lot at the stadium was a NIGHTMARE. The concert ended at 23h00 and I got home at 02h00. Go figure. This was compounded by a flat tyre. It’s not that fun driving through the Crown Mines area at 01h00 with a really odd sounding back tyre.
This transport problem is not going to go away anytime soon.
The options that involve you getting to the stadium, however, are quite numerous. The stadium is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. The stadium, thus, was built with an integrated public transport approach. In theory, you should easily be able to get to the stadium via a plethora of easy to use options. Besides driving to the stadium, which more and more people are doing these days, there is the Park and Ride bus system, the Metrorail system and the Rea Vaya. This should work in theory. But let’s look at each of these options in detail.
The Park and Ride bus system is normally considered the “best” option. One parks in a remote location and catches a bus to the stadium. The busses are given priority so you should not be stuck in much traffic going to the stadium and returning. The parking facilities are usually quite accessible. From memory, I know that these are strategically located in the east, west, Pretoria, Constitution Hill and at the Dome to serve the large Fourways contingent that regularly supports these concerts. There are many problems with this system. Firstly, the cost is rather large. For the Lady Gaga concert, the tickets cost R120 per person. This is on top of the several hundred rands you have paid for the ticket in the first place. Although buses are given priority, this is never the case in practice so you will sit in traffic just like everyone else. Also, depending on the company contracted to provide the transport, you could wait for several hours. Once you get back to the parking venue after the concert, you still need to deal with the traffic out of that place. Sadly, this option is one I avoid.
The Rea Vaya BRT are busses on steroids. I’ve utilised this system before and I have fallen in love with it. Jozi, sadly, cannot properly implement an underground system like other major cities but the BRT system easily offers a great alternative. However, the routes are currently limited and service mainly Soweto and the Inner City. There is a great plan to run these busses up the M9 (Oxford/Rivonia Road) all the way to Sunninghill. This would revolutionise public transport in Jozi. It would do so much to alleviate traffic and, well, this would change the landscape of Jozi. But alas, I am pretty sure that the local newspapers will rally support to block this lower-income friendly scourge and have it run down Louis Botha instead. This is a discussion for another time. Anyway, there is one simple reason why you can’t use the Rea Vaya to get to the stadium. The last bus on T1 line that runs pass the stadium is at around 19h00. You’d be stranded at the stadium at the end of the concert…
The train is logically the best option. Mass transit available for a huge number of fans – this option should be a no brainer! The biggest problems I have with the train system (and the integrated public transport system) is this: without me providing you with a link, I would like you to try to find which trains to take to Soccer City from a location close to you. Not that easy hey? Luckily, for Linkin Park, Big Concerts arranged with Prasa to have dedicated trains. Did you even know about this? You probably didn’t as this was announced a day before the concert after most people had found alternate ways to get to the stadium.
The demographic that go to these concerts are not the demographic that utilises the trains. Quite simply, the middle class have no idea how trains even work or where to find any information on the trains. When people use the trains, they have no idea what to expect. The normal Metrorail trains are not in the best condition currently (although the rolling stock is soon to be highly modernised) and these are not, generally, to the liking of your average middle to upper class South African. Then there is access. How do you get to the trains? The train lines do not pass through the affluent suburbs so you still need to drive to the station. You can’t take the Gautrain to Park Station either as the service ends around 20h30. The other issue is the speed of these trains – these are really slow. The average (low-income) commuter spends several hours on the train every day as they commute from their homes into the inner city. This is not acceptable to the middle class. Again, this is a discussion for another day. The trains are great but these are just not feasible.
So this leaves us with driving to the stadium and parking there. This is not a cheap affair. Parking next to the stadium cost me R120. Take a moment to fathom that amount. Furthermore, the parking situation at the stadium is ludicrous. To get to the stadium will test your wits. The M1 South is always chock-a-block and should take you at least two hours to navigate before you get to the stadium. It rained before Linkin Park and this just compounded issues. Once you’re at the stadiums, attendants are only interested whether you have paid your exorbitant fee as you make your way, with very little aid, to the parking lots. Once the concert begins, the attendants dissipate and are nowhere to be seen to guide you out. What you are left with is a complete mess. There are thousands of cars using hundreds of pathways to get onto a handful of roads out of the precinct. It’s ridiculous. It’s best to just carry your braai stuff and sit for two hours after the concert before you attempt to leave.
So what can you do?
Private helicopter – that would work.
So here exists the world’s most beautiful and most important stadium yet you cannot go to it if you want to experience the magic that it holds. This is sad. It just really is sad.
So how do we solve this?
From my point of view, public transport needs a paradigm shift. We need both development and understanding from all the inhabitants of Jozi. We cannot keep subscribing to our, “cars first,” mentality. We need a concerted effort to move towards public transport. We need these sources of transport to be reliable, of adequate quality and these have to be easy to use and trustworthy.
Both government and private enterprises need to make public transport attractive to us. It should not be a fight if you want to get from Morningside to the stadium using public transport. The mechanisms need to be put in place that ensures you can commute there safely and affordably. The Gautrain and Rea Vaya is a start. We need to accept extensions to these services. We cannot be selfish and stand in the way of development of the city. That being said, these extensions must be done responsibly. Furthermore, the role of the Metrobus and Putco services needs to become attractive to all instead of just some of the population. The taxi industry needs an image overhaul as well. Government has been driving recapitalisation for over a decade but this has not made the sector attractive to others not being served by it. The industry needs to shake off the unsafe stigma attached to it. The taxi associations need to ensure safety. These are issues that need some serious discussion and brainstorming if we are going to make it work.
For us, the middle class, this means a huge mindset change. We can’t look at public transport as being solely for the poor. We need to start looking into the options that exist. We need to actually to consider using taxis and buses. We even need to look and lobby for the extension of the train system.
Are these easy decisions and choices to make? Not one bit. But we need to make a start. The traffic in Jozi is only going to get worse and soon, we won’t only be inconvenienced at concerts but the normal, everyday running of our lives will become impossible.
So Soccer City, at the end of the day, is quite a contrast. The next big concert is Lady Gaga in a few weeks and the unbelievably brilliant Red Hot Chili Peppers are performing there in early February (and Metallica in April.) I will be there for the latter show(s). Both shows are going to be epic but the transport, well…