Fans showed their displeasure by vandalizing the stadium after the Nedbank Cup match between Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars at Moses Mabhida Stadium. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
South Africa celebrated Freedom Day on Friday, but there are hundreds around us who ought not to be celebrating that liberty.

Last Saturday night, at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, there were scenes of such disgusting violence that the jails of central Durban are supposed to still be groaning under the collective weight of their tenancy.

What we saw last week, despite many labels that the powers that be have tried to put on it, was the lowest of the low. It was the ugly side of sport, and one that is of even deeper concern in South Africa because fans seem to know that they will get away with it.

Our stadiums used to be seen as the ultimate platform of collective relaxation, a place of celebration and temporary relief from the realities of our everyday challenges of work and life. It is a ritual that has played out for decades, even in the dark days, and we remain one of the very few countries where rival supporters can sit next to each other, simultaneously cheering and jeering to their hearts’ content.

Fans vandalizing the stadium during the 2018 Nedbank Cup match between Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars at Moses Mabhida Stadium, Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

The problem, however, is that there is a growing faction of fans who go to the stadium looking for trouble. They arrive at a football stadium already well lubricated, and they proceed to consume even more of whatever their poison is. Once they reach the point of little regard, they are emboldened enough to become more than just mere observers.

There is a mob mentality in our football, and it comes with an increasingly more sinister feel to it. They are baying for blood, and their groans turn deeper and more menacing with time. They feel entitled to voice their displeasure, and woe betide if you try and get between them and their target.

What happened at the Moses Mabhida Stadium last week was exactly what will occur when opportunity meets alcohol and entitlement.

It was vile, and there ought to be significantly more done than just the normal investigation.

For one thing, the television footage from the cameras that survived the carnage should have been Exhibit A. It is incredible that we don’t have 20-40 people in the dock, explaining their brainless actions of destruction.

Kaizer Chiefs are also liable in all this. Their fans keep stepping out of line, no doubt frustrated by their trophy famine. That is still no reason to behave in the manner they did last week. Chiefs, for their inability to control their disgruntled mob, should be playing their home games behind closed doors, and they should be paying a price so high that they start to seriously consider fan education clinics.

Fans became violent and started vandalizing Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

We keep sweeping these incidents under the carpet, leaning towards leniency and “learning”, instead of becoming ruthless about them.

And let us not look at the “security” presence in our stadia to find fault. They are so inadequately trained that they are nothing more than glorified car guards with a nice view.

For their few hours of obedience, they are paid in cash  with cap and bib in hand  with the promise of another “pay day” for the next home game.

Long after the final whistle, you will see them in a snake of a queue, patiently waiting for their humble stipend like grown Oliver Twists after more soup.

Sometimes, like last Saturday, they also find themselves in the firing line, collectively pummelled for becoming a feeble barrier between expected behaviour and opportunistic barbarism.

They are not paid or trained well enough to be human punching bags.

You have to wonder just how much the security firms that employ them are pocketing, under the pretence of providing actual security, instead of convenient numbers on a spreadsheet.

It all emphasises the point that, despite the money and the hype, there is a still an awful lot wrong with our football  and most of it is not even on the field.

That is a depressing reality.

Sunday Tribune

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