JOHANNESBURG – Tonight's friendly match at FNB Stadium between South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns and Barcelona, the kings of Spanish football, is one massive advert for all of the game’s stakeholders.
Not only will the Sundowns players get a rare chance to brush shoulders with players they spend so much of their time trying to emulate in their own style of play and dedicate so much of their data worshipping on their Instagram stories, but everyone from the planning team right down to the security marshal.
Of course this one event will not make up for the Moses Mabhida Stadium mayhem several weeks ago in the Nedbank Cup semi-final clash between Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars or the PSL fixture involving this same Sundowns outfit and Orlando Pirates, but it certainly can show that there are some very capable people in authority. We’ve not seen much of that in PSL matches.
People have died in the past and lessons have not been learnt, it would appear.
But word is that the government is even stepping in to assist with security measures and whatever else is needed to guarantee all the focus is on the game, and nothing else.
Not in Madiba’s name, they have said.
The more than 90 000 capacity venue, which hosted the final of the World Cup between Spain and the Netherlands nearly eight years ago, will be packed to the rafters.
That is simply a category A fixture and should be prioritised as high risk.
For those who aren’t aware and have been wondering why police presence at the recent pitch invasions at Loftus and Moses Mabhida was a scarce as hen’s teeth, the South African Police Service define high risk differently to the organisers of any football event in South Africa. To them a high level of danger means deploying more bodies because there is a likelihood of a terrorist attack. Yup.
But the South African government is throwing the rulebook out the door for tonight’s friendly, and part of it is because resources have been made available.
No one is prepared to cut corners this time - the world will be watching. However, when the great Barcelona jet off hours later, and the Calabash is empty again and looking for its next fix to stay viable as a venue, what about the local game?
Do we only roll out the red carpet for foreign dignitaries and VIP guests that parted company with some R6 500 to watch Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi from a box seat? Accountability should not be optional.
Yes, let us celebrate what is obviously an incredible advert for South African football thanks to Patrice Motsepe pulling the strings to bringing Barcelona to the country on such short notice.
But a reminder that lives have been lost, a man guilty of nothing but trying to prevent hooligans from breaking the law kicked in the stomach and rushed to hospital, and millions worth of TV equipment damaged.
We shouldn’t wait for the best in the business to show up on our doorstep to do the right thing - to do what we are supposed to do.