Husband and wife Liesle and Heinrich Hans from Westridge, Mitchells Plain say it is game on for Sunday’s derby clash at Old Trafford. Liesle supports Man United, while Heinrich will be cheering for Liverpool.
Husband and wife Liesle and Heinrich Hans from Westridge, Mitchells Plain say it is game on for Sunday’s derby clash at Old Trafford. Liesle supports Man United, while Heinrich will be cheering for Liverpool.

Cape Town marriages tested on big day of European football

By Robin Adams Time of article published Oct 24, 2021

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Husband and wife Liesle and Heinrich Hans from Westridge, Mitchells Plain say it is game on for Sunday’s derby clash at Old Trafford. Liesle supports Man United, while Heinrich will be cheering for Liverpool.

The battle lines have been drawn, and for 90-odd minutes today, large parts of the world will likely to come to a standstill.

It is always a massive occasion when Manchester United and Liverpool play each other. It's not called the Big One for nothing.

The two cities in England are 56km apart, so roughly the distance between Atlantis and Cape Town's CBD.

Their rivalry is one of the most celebrated in the world, with nearly 700 million people around the globe tuning in to watch every single time.

Today's Premier League clash in Manchester is the headline act in a day dubbed Super Sunday, with a few more notable fixtures in Spain, Italy and France rounding off a fun-filled afternoon of football.

But most of the attention will be squarely focused on Old Trafford.

And while the UK may be in a different time zone, and quite a distance away, Cape Town fans here are also gearing up to cheer on their respective teams on their TVs.

Spare a thought for local families who support opposing teams, and there are many of them in the city. Like the Pontacs from Strandfontein. Wife Beryl is a long-time Manchester United supporter, while husband Deon is a Liverpool fan.

Liverpool fan Deon Pontac

"We keep the banter in my household on match days very civil," admits Deon. "But I particularly like it when Man United get thumped or drop points, especially on a weekend where my team wins." Beryl is optimistic that she'll go to bed a winner on Sunday. "I am a bit frustrated with my team's performance so far. But I also know that Man United always bring their A-game when they play Liverpool. I am excited and anxious, and I still believe in my team."

Beryl Pontac is optimistic that she'll go to bed a winner on Sunday.

Liesle and Heinrich Hans from Mitchells Plain are another case of opposites attract.

"My husband has been a Liverpool fan since the 80s and I have supported Man United all my life," says Liesle. "Match day in our house is a little crazy. We wake up with our game faces on. We don't even speak to each other. We'll be at each other's throats all the time. But it's actually a lot of fun," she adds.

The first competitive match between the two clubs was played in the late 1800s.

Back then United were known as Newton-Heath, and Liverpool had just gone it alone, having broken away from Everton football club.

Lance Santos, a South African sports correspondent with tv network TRT World based in the UK, has covered plenty of derby matches. He tells Weekend Argus that the fixture has always been a "blockbuster encounter".

"They are two most successful sides in British football history." he says. "At this present moment it seems it's Liverpool that have the upper hand. They've been in scintillating form. Manchester United are at a crossroads under coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This could be the end. Because this big derby game against Liverpool starts a run of very important matches. A win for Liverpool will be a massive shot in the arm for coach Jurgen Klopp."

Neil Ruiters, chairperson of Liverpool's official supporters' club in Cape Town, says he has "mixed feelings" about today's match. "This fixture is really unpredictable every single season. And it is always the team that is in form that loses the game on the day. I don't doubt Man United's ability to give Liverpool a really tough game, which we have seen so many times over the years."

Ricky Van Wyk, life-time member of Cape Town's official Manchester United Supporters' Club, and who has had a front row seat to United's games at Old Trafford several times, says: "With regards to current performances, I'm not confident about Sunday's game. But then again with the United team we've got, you never know. This is a big derby with Liverpool, so anything can happen. We can surprise anyone because of all the stars we have in our team."

The outcome of this match is likely to have some bearing on under-fire United boss Solskjaer's future with the club explains Santos. "Yes Ole is a legend at Manchester United, but how long will the fans put up with him? United fans are very knowledgeable. They've dealt with the best in the game in Alex Ferguson. They are used to that kind of level of managerial abilities. How long will the fans remain silent in the stadium. The reality is Ole is not an elite level manager. If Ole got sacked tomorrow, which Premier League clubs will be lining up for him? Ole appears to be a dead man walking, in particular if they lose badly to Liverpool. There is so much on the line."

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