Why the iKapa derby is so special in the Mother City
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EVERY major city in the world has a football derby that splits it straight down the middle.
In some parts it is defined by contrasting religious ideologies, while others are based on historic social and economic status.
Cape Town has been no different over the years with the Mother City derby always creating fervent interest.
In the 1970s Cape Town Spurs and Glenville FC had Athlone Stadium rocking, while Spurs and Hellenic match-ups during the 90s was as much a part of the city’s unique flavour as Sunday morning koesisters from Aunty Tiema or a Golden Dish gatsby at 4am after a night out at Galaxy.
My first real taste of the iKapa derby was in 2003 when Santos - “The People’s Team” - met Ajax Cape Town in the Absa Cup final at a roaring Athlone Stadium.
Cape Town was really showing off that day. The sun was shining in all it’s glory and the city’s football-loving patrons had come out in their masses to support their respective teams.
It was an extravagant show with the stands draped in the red and white of Ajax and Santos’ yellow, before a helicopter delivered the trophy on to the ground for the respective owners John Comitis (Ajax) and Goolam Allie (Santos) to carry out to the middle.
A fervent atmosphere rippled through the entire match with Santos eventually claiming the honours 2-0 to bookend a glorious period in the history of the club.
Unfortunately, there will be no such fanfare when Cape Town City and Stellenbosch FC, the latest contesters of the Cape derby, meet tomorrow at 5pm due to Covid-19 restrictions depriving spectators of the opportunity to wear their colours at the stadium.
The lack of fans is particularly galling to City, with managing director Michel Comitis – son of owner John – saying back in 2019 without obviously knowing the impact Covid-19 would have on the beautiful game: “If you tell me that City are going to play behind closed doors and our social media channels will be shut down, but in return we will win the league every year, then we will close the club (because) that means nothing to us.
“It is not who we are. This is a football club, and we want to connect with people, to let them know they are not forgotten. Our strategy asks for engagement and then reciprocates, because what we do comes from a genuine place.”
The fans really do mean everything to City, with their devotion to social empowerment projects in the various communities throughout these unique Covid-19 times in addition to their commitment in assisting the national vaccination process has been thoroughly commendable.
Stellenbosch are, equally, steadfast in spreading football’s gospel in the greater Cape Winelands area that has previously been obsessed with the oval ball game instead.
Although City’s name is historically linked to Cape football, both clubs contesting the derby, in essence, are relatively still in their embryonic stages.
City’s renaissance, having begun five years ago now after the purchase of Mpumalanga Black Aces in 2016, is closely linked to the Comitis family’s devotion to providing a platform for the thousands of talented footballers in the city to showcase their ability on the professional stage.
Stellenbosch have a similar vision since taking over the former Vasco da Gama franchise, which is evident in their recruitment strategy with Stellies boasting a host of local players from the likes of Idas Valley and surrounding areas.
On the side of City, it is the likes of Craig Martin, Taariq Fielies, Abbubaker Mobara, Tashreeq Morris and Fagrie Lakay who have the blood of growing up in the city’s amateur football ranks pumping through their veins.
There are few who identify with the struggles of trying to come out on top to dine at the elite Premiership table than Martin, with the Kensington-born wing-cum-defender a reallife source of motivation for aspiring professional footballers.
Likewise, Stellies boast the homegrown talents of Moegamat de Goede, Waseem Isaacs, Ashley du Preez and goalkeeper Lee Langeveldt within their ranks.
It is up to these young men to deliver the type of performance that rouses the excitement within the spectators watching closely on their televisions at home, that will hopefully grow the expectation of returning to the stadium for the next derby should protocols permit.
No player ever needs any motivation heading into a derby, but both coaches Eric Tinkler (City) and Steve Barker (Stellenbosch) are man-management masters and would have been relaying messages of inspiration all week during the build-up.
Everything has been set up for a feast of football that only Cape Town can deliver.