One must give credit where it is due and applaud the local football fanatics for the way they’ve showed up for every game played, so far. They’ve really showed up in their numbers since the first game of the season when Cape Town City hosted defending champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, at Cape Town Stadium on Friday, August 5th. What a conducive atmosphere the supporters have been creating at every game played, at different venues, since then!
To see over 30 000 supporters flocking into Moses Mabhida Stadium for the mid-week clash between Royal AM and Orlando Pirates last week was a spectacle and something to behold! The two teams had no excuse but to display good and attractive football, to play their part as the supporters had clearly delivered on their part of the bargain. This is what South African football is all about! The passionate and vociferous supporters, singing their lungs out in jubilation, as they rally behind their favourite teams. This is what South African football is all about! This is what we’ve been yearning for and for almost the past two seasons we couldn’t experience anything like this because of the pandemic that wreaked havoc all over the world. Towards the end of the last campaign, 2000 supporters were allowed into the match venues as a pilot project that proved to be a success. However, since then, the numbers dwindled drastically when the supporters were eventually allowed back into the stadium. One was worried about all the noise we made about putting pressure on government to allow the supporters back as the numbers on the stands didn’t justify the cries to open the match venues.
Fast-forward to the start of the new campaign, supporters have really come to the party and this goes to show that they failed to turn up in their numbers because there was very little to play for when they were allowed back, towards the end of last season. From the very first game this season, the supporters have made their presence felt, flocking the stadiums and creative a wonderful atmosphere as they continue to rally behind their teams. This is a good advert for local football and it is good for the growth and maintenance of our Beautiful Game because supporters are very important role-players in this ecosystem. They should never be left out because the pieces of the puzzle are incomplete without them.
The supporters are playing their part and it is now up to their teams to deliver on their end of the bargain, by dishing out beautiful, entertaining and winning football on the field of play as a way of giving back to their faithful supporters. That way, the supporters’ efforts would have been complemented, giving supporters something to cheer about and something to look forward to next time the team plays. Honestly, not many teams have repaid their supporters so far this season, with most of our supporters leaving the match venues with their heads hanging in shame and utter disappointment.
The individual brilliance, great team goals from patient build-ups, creative and defense-splitting passes from the midfield, well-taken freekicks, wingers taking on their opposition and leaving them sprawled on the floor with the strikers burying the chances created… that’s what the supporters want to see and surely that’s not too much to ask from their favourite teams. Yes, it is still early days into the season and one believes the supporters are mindful of the fact that it is going to take one or two more games before the teams get going. As proven over the years, some teams gel quicker than others, just as some lose momentum when others are finding their feet.
Once again, well done to the 12th man for the wonderful support so far and it is now up to the players and their respective teams to put a smile on their faces through ‘WOW!’ moments on the field so that the supporters have something to take home and talk about until the next match. Teams must make the most of the number of supporters whose attention and interest has been grabbed so far, so that they don’t get tired or bored of the same excuses (reasons) for not converting chances or playing unattractive football. Some of our supporters are just like kids, their concentration span is very limited, and they tend to lose interest quickly, unless you manage to keep them locked in. The last thing we need is to lose the numbers we’ve already won over and see them watching football on television, instead of canvassing for their friends to join them on their trips to the stadium.
Let’s keep the supporters coming back and to do so, we have to provide entertainment at our match venues. We need to rid ourselves of the tendency and culture to make football matches a 90-minute event. It should be more than that. People have to attend football games like they do concerts, where they spend hours enjoying entertainment. We do that, then supporters arriving late and delaying the start of big games would be a thing of the past because, with entertainment before the games, our supporters will develop a new culture of being at the stadium almost two hours before kick-off because they know they will not be bored for hours before the game.
This is where activations before the game and at halftime come in so that the supporters remain entertained. Even bringing back curtain raisers like the legends’ games or academy teams displaying the future prospects of their clubs. Because of lack of entertainment and engagement, some supporters are happy to arrive just 20 minutes before the game or even sit in their cars and enjoy a good time outside the venue and rush to the gate just in time for kickoff, which causes a bottleneck at the gates when many of the supporters planned to do the same. That’s when games get delayed and the last thing anyone wants to see is the players sent back to the changeroom for longer than expected because of the influx of the supporters at the gates. Let’s rid ourselves of this habit of arriving late by making football games a family outing.
Another thing that we need to discourage is the booing of players, which surfaced this past weekend when a section of Kaizer Chiefs supporters booed Siyabonga Ngezana, following his well-documented blunders against Sundowns, after he came on as a substitute against Richards Bay FC. As if that wasn’t enough, Orlando Pirates striker Eva Nga was on the receiving end of boos from a section of his own supporters against SuperSport United. This is the time that our players need us the most, so let’s not turn our backs on them. Let’s support and not boo them. We don’t destroy but build and encourage our players. Let us also discourage one another from this unacceptable behaviour, guys. Let’s continue to support our teams by turning up at the stadiums and even encourage those who are left behind, so that we all play our part in enhancing the Beautiful Game even in the tough economic conditions we find ourselves in.