In spite of what the eThekwini Municipality would have us all believe, the sporting Mecca of South Africa, Durban is not.
The city is many things – to us Vaalies, it is an opportunity to catch some UV rays, our toes dug deep into the sand, sipping on a cold brewskie while overlooking the curling waves crashing into the volcanic-strata beach, enjoying biting into crunchy, sand-blasted pizza.
And every so often when someone suggests a swim in the warm, Agulhas-current powered Indian Ocean, lifting our hands in cautionary gesticulation: “Watch out for the rip-curl, I hear it’s woes here.”
Ah, Durbs ... close enough for us Gautengers to get a blistered back over a long weekend and live with the consequences thereafter.
But as a sporting destination?
Forget about it.
Why, just this past week, Bafana Bafana played in an almost empty stadium, the SA players chasing more often after tumbleweeds than the Libyan players in possession.
All you needed was a Spagetti-Western soundtrack in the background and the illusion would have been complete.
Sure, the weather was tempestuous and it no doubt played a part in frightening away supporters, but all of them?
Prior to that insouciant showing by both Bafana and the peeps in Durban, the Springboks played at Kings Park in a half-full – if you are that kind of guy – stadium.
Moreover, the Boxing Day Test, a staple of our cricketing calendar, has been removed from the city, seemingly due to a lack of interest.
It will be played this year at SuperSport Park instead – which, I will remind you, is in a Gauteng that is half-empty at that time of the year because everyone is down at the coast.
And this is for our national teams – the “Big Three” – who supposedly have the most pulling power and largest support base in the country.
I can agree that Bafana, the Boks and Proteas have been uninspired of late.
But if Durban can’t care about pitching up to watch them, then how can the PSL justify playing the MTN8 final between Cape Town City from, well, Cape Town and SuperSport United from Tshwane at the Moses Madhiba Stadium in Durban.
Money, we are told by those in the know, is the ultimate answer.
Neutrality is the other reason. Apparently, we can’t have one team have home ground advantage, but having an empty stadium ugly on the eye is hunky-dory.
That second motivation makes logical sense, if the cup we were talking about wasn’t the MTN8.
Every season, clubs jockey to get into the top eight just to get a crack at the prize-money in the cup competition.
The suggestion here is quite simple: Give finishing in the top eight some context, give it meaning.
Let finishing in the Premiership standings determine who gets to play at home and who must play away during all the phases of this particular cup tournament.
With this system in place and by looking at last year’s final log, for example, Cape Town City, who finished in fifth, would have the honour, nay, the right to host Matsatsantsa a Pitori – seventh-placed last season – at Cape Town Stadium in the final.
Reward the clubs and their fans for their good showing, say I, instead of playing a final in a faraway city simply because of monetary reasons.@FreemanZAR