21 September 2015 by Katy Johnson

If you are new to Nelspruit, or a tourist passing through, you might wonder how the City’s iconic Soccer Ball came to be.


Photo's by Hennie Homann Lowveld Media and Wouter de Witt (aka Ghost)

The soccer ball, or ‘Eye of Nelspruit’ as it is more fondly known, is certainly a true landmark that can be seen from all the major access roads into the city. It is now as much a part of the City’s World Cup legacy as the beautiful Mbombela Stadium, but the story behind it is much more intriguing.

As before it was the ‘Eye of Nelspruit’, it was simply a water reservoir – albeit, a uniquely shaped one. A throwback to 1970’s concrete innovation, Nelspruit’s dodecahedron shaped water tower has been drawing attention way before South Africa was even in the running to host the World Cup. The innovative design resulted in it being chosen as the emblem for the city’s 75th birthday celebration.

However, unlike other architectural eras, the 1970’s decade of concrete is perhaps one to forget and the once celebrated reservoir became to be considered a bit of a blot on the landscape. That was until local artist Wouter de Witt (aka the Ghost) came up with the incredible idea of transforming it into the image of a soccer ball for the 2010 World Cup.

With support from local businesses, the Lowveld Media group and dedicated individuals like Hennie Homann the dream soon became a reality and the mammoth task of painting the colossal reservoir began. Thanks to the wet 2010 summer, the painting took longer than expected and wasn’t without its own drama! Precariously balanced ladders, hundreds of abseiling adventures and an overly enthusiastic assistant’s daredevil solutions to painting the hard to reach sections might have left Wouter with a few more grey hairs, but also fond memories. While it might have taken months to complete and 1000s of litres of paint to finish, the result has been spectacular.

The new deck and beautiful gardens built at the base of the ball ensured that the ‘Eye of Nelspruit’ was as much a tourist destination as the stadium itself during the Soccer World Cup. Going to show that all it takes is a bit of imagination and a lick of paint to transform a local landmark into a Lowveld Legacy.

The question is what’s next for the Eye? Will it too fade into obscurity like the reservoir, ultimately becoming a blot once more as the paint cracks and fades? Or will this unexpected attraction once again have new life breathed into it and another role?

Only time will tell, but for the Eye, for the City and for all those involved – I hope it will. Wouter has great visions of it being turned into a traditional African pot, personally I would love its 11 visible sides to be dedicated to the 11 official languages of South Africa. Either way, it’s been a great talking point and the viewing decks boast one of the best views of the City.

More Info: To get to the Soccer Ball follow Ferriera Street up to the Steiltes roundabout. Turn left, signed to the Steiltes Shopping Centre. Take the first Left (opposite the turning for the Steiltes Shopping Centre and Total Garage. Go over the stop street and have reached the ‘Eye of Nelspruit’.