Throughout the years South African football supporters sit together at stadiums during league games as well as cup games as if we are supporting one team. Keep in mind that this is a country that has hosted 2010 World Cup and 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
The Premier Soccer League is amongst the biggest in Africa if not the biggest. Soweto derby (Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates) is also well known in most parts of Africa and some in Europe now.
The main reason I am writing about the supporters’ separation is due to safety reasons. We usually go to the stadium with our unreserved seats tickets and next thing you find yourself surrounded by the opposition supporters. We make those small talks until a misunderstanding rise or a goal comes to action. Anything can happen even though there are securities as well as police. Too often we see people jumping to the pitch, what can stop a serious fight?
However, referees can also make mistakes, a human error that will leave the favoured team’s supporters happy and the ones cheated furious. A fight can rise in this instance and before you know it, it will be a stampede from the gutted supporters. A similar incident happened in 1991 in a Soweto derby at Oppenheimer stadium, yet we still do not apply the right remedies.
A big game like the Soweto derby invites people to travel from all over the country to witness this prestigious game live. Recently, it also attracted women and children as well. The capacity of the supporters is actually larger than the securities and polices combined at the stadium should anything happen.
I have interviewed someone who is usually a security in big games like the Soweto derby. In fact, she was on duty even on the MTN8 second leg match. She told me that they are well trained for stadium games and any other events. She also mentioned to me that they can manage pressure, but should anything happen they will call police. Most police are also at the stadium on match days as back up to the securities and in helping to prevent any incidents. Basically police are there as a last defence too.
However, on the first leg of MTN8 I was watching the game live at FNB Stadium (Soccer City). There were people who watched the game on the walking passages on level one stands. Questions occurred to me: is the stadium acquainted more than maximum capacity? Why were the securities not making sure that those people were on their seats? Have we forgotten of what happened at Ellis Park?
Tragedies have happened even in Europe too (mother of most watched and intriguing leagues). Hence they have taken major remedies. Supporters do not sit together unless supporting one team. Other stadiums there are fences surrounded the pitch to avoid fans coming in. However, in some instances supporters still jump on the pitch but dealt with as fast as possible. South African securities also deal with supporters that jump in the pitch. We saw even on the weekend of Orlando Pirates v Al Ahly at Orlando Stadium.
We might be total strangers on our arrival at the stadium, but the moment we sit together and supporting one team – brother ship starts from there. Quite often I make friends at the stadium. Most of the time I make friends with the opposition team supporters. As a Chiefs supporter, I was surrounded by Pirates fans on both first leg and second leg of MTN8 at Soccer City and Orlando stadium respectively. Not surprisingly, they were criticizing some of Chief’s players. Imagine if I were to start a Floyd Mayweather fight. To add more salt on my wound, Pirates took an early lead which resulted to be a winner eventually on the first leg. Bacela’s penalty made me to leave the stadium before time on the second leg.
Yes, in terms of sales the stands separation might be a bad idea. It might happen away supporters are willing to buy more tickets than the home side. Logically away supporters should be less than the home supporters, which means other seats might remain unoccupied in this case. We all know the poor attendance here in South Africa in most stadiums, especially night fixtures and so called small teams.
Yet again most teams careless about a good home atmosphere, as long as the stadium is full. Bidvest Wits and Mpumalanga Black aces in particular. The duo takes their big fixtures to Mbombela stadium. Playing a team like Chiefs at Mbombela stadium it can only favours the “Glamour Boys”. Host team even get booed at some stages. We all know that sport has become business than just a sport. The duo (Wits and Black Aces) is aware that they will do well in terms of sales since Mbombela stadium is much bigger than their normal venues.
Irrespective of the attendance, the stands separation might be the thing we are in need of at our stadiums. For a country that has hosted World cup and AFCON it can be easy to achieve stands separation. All it takes is an initiation. It is about time home teams get a good atmosphere irrelevant of the opponent. I anticipate a squib that might not explode today, but prevention is better than cure. Home and away stands are the solutions and good innovation.
By Ntokozo Skhosana
Follow me on twitter @Ntophonic