The 12th man. In football circles around the world, that is one of the most common phrases and rightfully so, because everyone in the world of sport understands the difference it makes to have a crowd on your side.
That seems to exclude the mighty South African Football Association (Safa), though.
The local governing body has not only displayed a lack of desire to mobilise South African football fans to attend Bafana Bafana matches, but is also increasingly showing the middle finger to anyone who believes otherwise.
The latter is confirmed by the fact that it took Safa at least 10 months to fill the position of marketing director in the organisation.
Former Banyana Banyana captain Amanda Dlamini resigned from that position in November last year, and Safa only appointed Errol Madlala in September this year.
Madlala comes with a lot of experience, as his CV was well-quoted on a statement published on the Safa website when he was introduced to the public as the marketing and commercial manager.
However, that experience has not been evident when it comes to having strategies for attracting fans to the stadiums for Bafana matches.
At least with Banyana, when they played the first round of qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Olympics recently, there had been a radio promo spreading the word about free entry to the stadium.
Since Madlala’s appointment, Bafana have had four outings, three of them home games, with one away against 2024 Afcon hosts Ivory Coast in mid-October.
In all three home games (against Namibia, DR Congo and Eswatini), attendance was poor, leaving one to question whether there was anything done to attract fans to the stadiums.
What brings all this into mind is that Hugo Broos’s team are starting their 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifying campaign against Benin in Durban on Saturday.
This is not just another friendly against Eswatini, but the World Cup qualifiers. The general consensus is that the team need to get a positive result to launch a successful campaign.
It is often said that if you get things right the first time, your job is already half done. And so, a convincing win for Bafana in their first World Cup qualifier would go a long way in putting bums on seats in the coming games.
But not with Safa. They are playing in Durban, but they decided to meet and camp in Tshwane for four days and will only arrive on the East Coast tomorrow, the day before the game.
In another country, the camp would have been based in Durban to start with.
A few shopping centres and malls would have been identified for players to visit and carry out fan activations (sign jerseys, give away tickets, flags and other apparel) during the week.
Safa made it clear early in the week that there will be no free entry.
“Bafana Bafana hosts Benin at the Durban venue on Saturday, 18 November 2023, and tickets are available for purchase at TicketPro. General admission tickets are available at R50 (adults) and R20 (kids under 13 years),” reads the statement on the Safa website.
Couldn’t they find a way to offer Bafana jerseys to be won by ticket buyers or some family packages for a 3pm kick-off on a Saturday?
When asking the Safa communications department about all of this, the media are told “questions have been forwarded to Madlala”, and responses never return.
Another problem is that administrators are hard to find.
Yesterday, no one from Safa and Moses Mabhida Stadium management was able to give an update of how many tickets have been sold ...