England happy with World Cup HQ
Fabio Capello was bemused by reports describing England's World Cup base as a "dump" earlier this week.
In fact the Italian had visited the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus near Phokeng on Monday and was hugely encouraged by what he saw.
The centrepiece of the complex, the Royal Marang Hotel, had been completed. Whereas it had been a shell when Capello last visited, in December, it now contained 82 luxurious bedrooms, a spa, sauna and two designer restaurants.
And the training pitches, which had previously been such an area of concern for Capello and his assistant Franco Baldini, were now in good condition.
"Fabio couldn't have been more happy with what he saw and believes England have secured one of the best bases in the country," a senior Football Association insider told me.
"In particular, he really appreciated how hard they had worked on the pitches."
Much of the credit for the improvement in the pitches goes to Richard Hayden, from the Sports Turf Research Institute in west Yorkshire.
The Irishman travelled to South Africa earlier this year to work on the boggy pitches at England's base and was so successful that Fifa contracted him to work on the other teams' HQs.
The only parts of the Bafokeng complex that are yet to be finished are the gym and medical centre, which should be ready by the end of April.
Niall Carroll, chief executive of Royal Bafokeng Holdings, which owns the site, said: "We remain confident that we will meet the highest standards in every area.
"Construction remains on schedule and the primary pitches will be comparable to that of the Bafokeng Sports Palace (where England play USA on 12 June), which is rated as one of the best in the country.
"We are confident that the venue will be ready and thoroughly tested in time for the World Cup."
So while several other World Cup coaches were grumbling about the state of their HQs at a Fifa meeting in Sun City earlier this week, Capello was able to sit back contentedly.
The FA expects to sign a contract with the Campus by the end of next week - which should be a formality - and will be based there from 3 June.
Rooms will be equipped with flat screen TVs, internet and king sized beds
It will end a two-year project for Baldini, who started looking at potential bases shortly after Capello was appointed England boss in December 2007.
At first, hotels in the Cape Town area impressed most, but had to be ruled out.
With many matches, including the final, being played on the high veldt, England needed a base at altitude if they were to stand any chance of winning the World Cup.
The Velmore Hotel in Centurion then attracted the attention of the FA. But while the hotel was first rate, the training facilities weren't up to scratch.
The opposite was true of the High Performance Centre in Pretoria, where the training facilities were excellent but the accommodation basic and split across several different buildings.
Capello is confident the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus has ticked all the boxes and can be a fitting home from home for his side during the World Cup.
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