It has been several years since the groundbreaking of the new football arena in Baraki on the outskirts of Algiers. Fortunately, football supporters in Algeria lived to see the opening of this unlucky stadium. It officially took place on January 7.
There have been a lot of really interesting facilities being built in African countries in recent years. One only has to look at the list of arenas nominated for our Stadium of the Year 2022 award, which includes three venues from the Black Continent whose inauguration took place last year. The protagonist of this article, Stade Nelson Mandela, was only a few days away from being included in the pile. The official opening of the Algerian 40,000-seater took place on January 7, but before we get to that event, we need to go back in time to 2009.
It was then that the construction of the stadium, whose patron later became a famous South African human rights defender, began. The original plans called for the facility to be built in 2.5 years at a cost of around €100 million. However, it very quickly became apparent that it would not be feasible to meet this deadline and to fit into the budget. The quality of the ground on which the venue was to be built, problems with the availability of construction materials, and the financial crisis that led to delays in paying contractors all contributed to this. The COVID-19 pandemic did not help the timely completion of the investment either.
In the end, the cost of building the stadium tripled and the work was not completed until October 2022. Just in time for the African Nations Championship scheduled for the following January. Ahead of the inauguration, Nelson Mandela became the venue's patron. The late former South African president, who died in 2013, maintained close ties with Algeria, having travelled to the country in 1961 to train in the armed forces of the National Liberation Front. Mandela recalled this period as pivotal in his later battle against apartheid.
As mentioned, the first official match in the new stadium took place on January 7, 2023. It featured the host and Ghanaian national teams, whose squads consisted exclusively of players playing in their domestic leagues. The encounter ended in a goalless draw.
Before the start of the match, speeches were made by Djahid Zefizef president of the Algerian Football Federation, grandson of Nelson Mandela – Mandla Mandela, and Patrice Motsepe – president of the Confederation of the African Football. The ceremony was officially opened by Algerian Prime Minister Aymen Benabderrahmane. The event was also attended by a number of African football stars, including Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roger Milli and Jay-Jay Okocha.
The most striking feature of the Stade Nelson Mandela is the roof with a huge truss supported by four pillars, which fully covers the stands of the arena. The venue's façade consists of horizontal white stripes and glazing. It is surrounded by a training pitch and car parks. The arena has a playing field with natural grass, surrounded by two-tier stands with coloured seats. The stadium has extensive facilities, which include changing rooms, a conference area, media rooms, television studios, medical facilities, as well as hotel rooms and restaurants.
Stade Nelson Mandela is one of the arenas of the African Nations Championship that has just begun. It hosted, among other games, the opening match in which the tournament hosts defeated Libya 1:0. In addition, the stadium will host one of the quarter-finals, one of the semi-finals and the grand final of the event.