We Need To Learn From Them
by Soccer Laduma
Mar 20, 2019 09:30 AM
|Tags: Editor's Blog|
South Africans are a crazy and strange bunch!
We love sport. We want to see our teams do well. We are happy to be regarded as the best in the continent when it comes to sporting infrastructure and the love for the game. We like it when our country is regarded as the best and safest on the continent. We like it when our football league is ranked among the best in the world and regarded as the best in the continent.
We like to boast about the Soweto Derby being the biggest football game in the continent. We like to make noise about our democratic system and how we are a perfect example of civilisation in the African continent. We enjoy the idea of a non-racial and non-sexist country; in fact, we go as far as claiming to be such a country, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
We read the scriptures and preach the bible. We promote different religions. We are happy to be regarded as one of the most politically tolerant states in the world. I can go on and on about our beautiful South Africa, but in the same country we glorify and make noise about, the very same opposite of everything I have listed here still applies.
You must be wondering what in the football world is going on with this rant? I said the opposite of every beautiful decoration I have used to describe our country isn’t far off the mark. The loving nation we so consistently claim to be is the same nation whose women and children continue to suffer in the hands of the males who should be doing everything in their power to protect them. Instead of celebrating them, we make them cry.
Such is the irony I have noticed with our teams campaigning in the CAF interclub competitions this season. Notwithstanding the disappointing outings by Free State Stars and Kaizer Chiefs in the Confederation Cup, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns represented the country with pride, amid disappointing results at times, especially for Pirates. What became vividly clear throughout the continental games was the lack of support our teams get from the so-called football-loving masses of South Africa. To think that not even Sundowns managed to play in front of a capacity crowd in their home games paints a sad picture, whereas our opponents went out of their way to ensure that our teams were met by hostile environments whenever they crossed our borders.
Pirates couldn’t get anything like the crowd and atmosphere that greeted them in Zimbabwe when they visited FC Platinum in their opening game of the tournament. It was like they were playing at home away from home judging by the number of black and white shirts and flags that were on display. Yes, you may argue that the 2018 Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League champions were playing away from home, Bulawayo, in a city that is filled with Pirates supporters, but the fact of the matter is that the Barbourfields Stadium was packed to the rafters. It was a spectacle! Yet whenever Pirates played at home, they couldn’t even fill half of Orlando Stadium. It was always chalk and cheese when compared to the crowd they played in front of away from home. For a team that did so well to reach the group stages in their first attempt since the 2013 Champions League final 3-1 aggregate loss to Al Ahly, surely you’d expect much more support.
Sundowns have been the most consistent South African representative in the continent yet even when they offered free entry, the stadium remained not packed. What has become of us and our love for football? Have we become couch potatoes who are only happy to be supporting the game through social media and watching from the comfort of our living rooms? Do we not really grasp the importance of these continental interclub games or is it a case of club allegiance ahead of national pride? Surely you’d expect everyone to rally behind their country’s representative in these games, even if it is just for 90 minutes? When Sundowns visited Morocco, to play Wydad Casablanca this past weekend, they just needed a draw to secure their top spot in Group A and mark the end of the road for the home side, who needed nothing less than a victory in order to reach the quarterfinals. The support the home team received was more than enough. It would be naïve for anyone to disregard the importance of that capacity crowd in pushing their team through.
What not many don’t seem to realise is just how tough this has made things for Sundowns and the potential this loss has to upset their applecart. Wydad, by virtue of finishing top of the group, will most likely draw Guinea’s Horoya FC, Algeria’s Club Sportif Constantinois or Tanzania’s Simba Sports Club, who all finished second in their respective groups. The loss, and subsequently finishing second, means Sundowns will be in a different pot to Al Ahly, TP Mazembe and Esperance. You do the math!
Supporters play a major role in this beautiful game and we need to do more for our clubs and national teams. Let football continue to be the driving force behind everything in the country. We are slowly losing our ground as the number one sport and that’s very worrying. The European football interest is also catching up and that can’t be more worrying. That’s all happening simply because we don’t show enough love, appreciation and support for our domestic game. If it wasn’t for the hostile environment in Morocco, Downs could have done a double over Wydad, but the 12th man played a major role in building their team’s morale. That’s been the difference between us and the rest of the continent. You look at Bafana Bafana in their qualifiers… we were dominated by the Nigerians at FNB Stadium. We find ourselves crossing fingers for a win away to Libya, whom we failed to beat at home, in order to qualify. Truth be told, we let ourselves down at home in these qualifiers by not taking advantage of the home ground like the rest of the continent. We need to learn from them. All the best to Bafana Bafana, we can’t miss the flight to Egypt!
This season has been one of the most exciting in many years, as we have no less than five teams with a chance to win the coveted Premiership title. We have witnessed some of the best goals, great performances and the league looks to be getting stronger and in great hands, yet we don’t see enough support on the stands. Let’s please play our part in ensuring that we preserve this special sport and make the visiting teams feel our passion whenever they visit our shores.
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