Antonio Habas Lopez, Henri Michel, Hristo Stoichkov and Johan Neeskens all needed police escorts just before they were fired with Sundowns’ fans baying for their blood due to disappointing runs.
The club’s president Patrice Motsepe simply followed the “recommendation” of the “HR” department by making the sacking official.
Even Pitso Mosimane, who gave the Brazilians their first continental title, also had a section of fans calling for his head just months after ending a seven-year league drought.
These were the same fans who had called for Neeskens’ axing and shouted Mosimane’s name as their preferred candidate to replace the Barcelona legend.
Motsepe duly obliged and hired Mosimane.
But for a change, Motsepe stood his ground and kept Mosimane. ‘Jingles’ repaid that faith by winning the 2015/16 Absa Premiership with the record number of points (71), followed by bringing the 2016 Caf Champions League and 2017 Caf Super Cup to Chloorkop.
While Sundowns went beyond being a South African powerhouse by also becoming a force in the continent, their fans also changed from being the club’s HR department to being supporters – passionately backing their team regardless of the outcome.
It started slowly from the fans ditching vuvuzelas and singing their lungs out instead. Many songs that were sang at Lucas Moripe Stadium first spread across the country to become national anthems of some sort. Mosimane praised that.
They took it further by singing even after a defeat, something that would have been unheard of in the past.
At first I thought that they did that because they were still high from being African champions. But they continued doing that even after Wydad Casablanca dethroned them.
A friend of mine couldn’t contain his disgust at seeing Sundowns’ players dancing with the fans after losing at home in their last match of 2017 against Cape Town City at Loftus Versfeld.
Mosimane took it further after the loss to Polokwane by saying that maybe their fans should boo the players to wake them up, having lost a match they dominated. I disagree with Mosimane.
I believe that what Sundowns’ fans are doing is something that must be applauded. The job of being a fan is backing your team through thick and thin.
The problem is that we are so used to fans throwing missiles and booing their players that we believe that’s the only way to get the players to react and shake off their slump. But showing them love when they are down is better than kicking them. What Sundowns’ fans are doing shows maturity, especially in an institution that’s used to success with the record number of league titles in the PSL era.
Bloemfontein Celtic fans were the first to do this, turning their stadium into a blue and white fortress where they had no equal. Even Kaizer Chiefs, who outnumber every team anywhere in the country, played second fiddle to Siwelele in the City of Roses. It was a beautiful sight and it’s nice to see them return to that culture.
As a country, we are used to using violence as a means for people to listen to a point that it’s now second nature. Those in power are to blame for that because they don’t want to humble themselves before the people who put them there and listen to their concerns.
It takes burning of buildings and other things for those in power to listen and act. They play deaf when it’s still peaceful which is why almost every strike is characterised by violence because that’s the only way to get the message across and have someone listen to your needs. That shouldn’t be the case.
It took Orlando Pirates’ fans invading Loftus and clashing with Sundowns supporters for the club’s management to finally hire a permanent coach months after Muhsin Ertugral resigned. That sent a bad message on the art of engaging with the fans.
No player goes out on the field to intentionally lose a match. They give it their all and when things aren’t going well they need the fans’ love not hate.
In some instances they do need to be shaken off their slump but that doesn’t mean violence is the only way to achieve that.
That’s easier said than done because football is an emotional sport and no one expects fans to smile and sing after a disappointing result. But in the same breath, love rather than violence is the best motivation.