Friday, February 25, 2011

Extra Time; Beauty of the Soweto Derby

I hid my face in shame and embarrassment upon hearing the news that a successive Battle of Zimbabwe encounter has been abandoned due to crowd trouble. It puzzles in that Bosso and Dembare, two of the most successful teams in the land could cause chaos and discomfort instead of jubilation and entertainment. It’s so unfortunate in that in our society we have to accommodate people who have a weakness of trying to have their way everywhere, people who can’t just accept defeat.

Most of these hooligans are not registered members who neither have knowledge on their club’s budget nor attend meetings. With this barbaric act, they discourage hard to get sponsors and puts clubs in unnecessary debts as they have to re-arrange abandoned matches. The fans must obey the referee’s decision because it is final. How can they justify the match officials’ pathetic performance by throwing in missiles? Supporters must learn to remain calm and unmoved even under the worst provocation. The League’s Disciplinary Committee deals with the match officials accordingly, as much as the referee cautions a player for misconduct. A bunch of fans mustn’t confront a match official for whatever reason. The unruly fans feel they are better match officials, coaches and have the better disciplinary committee.

Though the Battle of Zimbabwe and the Soweto Derby teams come from a different background, this is a chance to observe and emulate sportsmanship, love and peace demonstrated by Orlando Pirates and Kaiser Chiefs fans. Friendly war has erupted in cyberspace between these two sets of fans and whichever team wins this encounter will bless its fans with bragging rights. Though a few Chiefs fans threw in two vuvuzelas and a cabbage against Pirates last year, the situation was easily controlled and it never tainted the beauty of the Soweto derby. During the game you will find some Bucs and Chiefs fans mixed, cheering and dancing together. It’s such a spectacle to witness these fans using the same transport, blowing their vuvuzelas, enjoying their way to the stadium. Amakhosi have in their ranks four Zimbabweans whereas the Bucs have Makonese who’s not likely to feature in this high profile game.

This is a lesson hooligans should learn because they are a hazard to the community, they are a disgrace to the football fraternity. Hooliganism must stop, it must stop now. In 2001 a total of 141 fans were tragically lost in two separate incidents involving Ghana superpowers; Accra Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko, DRC crowd pullers; TP Mazembe and FC St Eloi Lupopo. On both disasters, fans became violent, police fired teargas in a bid to control the crowd and fans, escaping the gas, the supporters rushed and scrambled for the exit gates ensuring a stampede. Precious lives were lost in a game they call the world’s most beautiful.

Perhaps some misinterpret Bill Shankly’s famous quote when he said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed in that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” He didn’t mean to condone violence or promote hooliganism. Hooliganism must stop, and it must stop now.

(By Vusumuzi Mourinho Ndlovu)