IOL soccer writer Njabulo Ngidi shares his thoughts on the Soweto Derby. Phot: Karen Sandison
IOL soccer writer Njabulo Ngidi shares his thoughts on the Soweto Derby. Phot: Karen Sandison

Derby brings out the best and worst in football

By Njabulo Ngidi Time of article published Feb 24, 2018

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The success of the Soweto Derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates is a gift and a curse for South African football.

Amakhosi and the Buccaneers are the most loved and easily marketed teams in the country. These two giants can fill FNB Stadium for a snail race, granted that those snails are clad in the black and white colours of Pirates with a section in the gold and black of Chiefs  such is the rivalry between these two clubs.

FNB Stadium will once again be packed today in this season’s second installment of the Soweto Derby on Saturday next week. This spectacle has gone beyond being a just football match. It’s an iconic event on the social calendar that can compete, and probably win, against the Durban July and the J&B Met.

But because of that success, failures during the staging of this game are easily forgiven because nothing can stop tickets for this game being quickly snapped up  not even the death of people at the derby is a deterrent.

Why would you then bother fixing a problem that doesn’t have any repercussions on your part as life, for the lucky souls who keep their’s, goes on? In July last year two people died in the Carling Black Label Cup during a stampede that resulted in several injuries.

More than six months later the only tangible thing that has been done to get to the route of that problem is the announcement that retired Judge Ronny Pillay has been appointed to chair the inquiry into the matter instituted by the Minister of Sport and Recreation Thulas Nxesi.

The event’s organisers haven’t done much to address this incident and ensure that it doesn’t happen again even though the Soweto Derby has had two others stampedes that resulted in the deaths of 85 people combined.

Heck, the anniversary of the Ellis Park disaster goes by without much done to commemorate the day that resulted in 43 people not returning home from watching their favourite teams. At least the Ellis Park disaster in 2001 is still being mentioned, what happened in Orkney in 1991 has been completely forgotten, even though 42 people lost their lives.

The poor organisation of the traffic in Chiefs’ clash with Mamelodi Sundowns at FNB Stadium that resulted in most of the just over 70 000 who made the trip spending hours to get into the stadium showed that not much has changed since those two deaths last year.

Stadium Management argued that the stampede was caused by several fans who tried to enter with fake tickets. They also said they were aware this would happen but their actions weren’t sufficient to stop a problem they knew would occur.

The FNB Stadium is a huge precinct that can easily be managed in ensuring only people with genuine tickets enter. The smoother the access to the stadium the less likely to be a stampede.

But there is a systematic problem of burying our heads in the sand when negative things occur in our game, which means we are unlikely to learn from them.

People avoid owning up and taking responsibility for chaos they caused. If you don’t admit you made a mistake, it’s highly unlikely you will learn from it.

The search for Bafana Bafana and Banyana Banyana coaches, to replace Shakes Mashaba and Vera Pauw, turned into prolonged farces and no one apologised to the nation for making a mockery of what should be a simple act.

The hooligans who vandalised Loftus Versfeld during Pirates’ match against Mamelodi Sundowns are yet to be punished more than a year later, even though there is video footage proving that and there is a precedent set of an 'away' team that was punished for its fans vandalising a stadium. We have had an acting PSL chief executive for years, which makes a mockery of the word acting in the title.

Our football has taken huge strides in the last decade in terms of growth. The professionalism in the running of the game and the financial incentives attracts players from all over the continent.

But we shouldn’t rest on our laurels. We ought to continuously strive to improve. To do that we have to be honest in our introspection, admit when we have erred and ensure that such mistakes don’t happen in the future.

There is a lot to cheer about in our game. But we shouldn’t be blinded by our victories to a point that we forget or ignore the obstacles that we still need to overcome.


Saturday Star

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