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This has become a uniquely South African experience

By unknown | Jul 10, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Soccer, football, diski, the beautiful game - call it what you may - is South Africa's staple pastime.

Soccer, football, diski, the beautiful game - call it what you may - is South Africa's staple pastime.

It no doubt brings out the best and well, sometimes, the worst in us.

On big, or even not-so-big match days the excitement is palpable as all descend on the various stadiums.

I once saw what appeared to be four generations of Kaizer Chiefs fans en route to Ellis Park Stadium to the Soweto derby - a Chiefs versus Orlando Pirates clash which would kick off at 3pm.

It was only 9am but the four, the patriarch, his son, grandson and great-grandson were already queuing at the taxi rank. Their club flag flew high above their heads.

And what about the group of Cape Town Ajax fans who drive through the night to a match at Soccer City and return home right after the game?

But the beautiful game, as it is called the world over, is not just about scoring goals and winning titles.

This reality was brought to the fore this week by soccer commentators Walter Mokoena and Mike Mangena on SABC1's Soccerzone programme.

The two were discussing the relegation of Black Leopards and Dynamos football clubs from the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to a lower division.

They observed, rightly so, that the fall from the elite league of the two clubs meant Limpopo no longer had representation in the PSL, and that was disconcerting, especially to fans in that province.

The gem was when Mokoena and Mangena noted that not only would the fans lose out but also the people who add to the hustle-and-bustle and the colour on match days.

Those, they said, were the vendors who sell a variety of wares outside the stadium. They are the men, but mostly women, who peddle anything from amanqina,skop,pap en vleis, soft drinks, even cold beer and soccer paraphernalia.

Most, if not all, of these small businessmen and women stand to lose their livelihoods because the big soccer stage is no more.

Of course, many lived for the weekend, when the multitudes of Bloemfontein Celtic supporters in their green and white shirts converged on Thohoyandou.

Business would be brisk. The smiles would be broader as the orders for the pap en vleis piled up.

Yes, it was good while it lasted for the football lovers of Limpopo.

I may not be qualified to even attempt analysing the fall from grace of the Limpopo soccer giants, save to wish them godspeed.

Meanwhile, Mangena and Mokoena should be lauded for their rare social commentary; for looking beyond what passes through the goalposts to beyond the stadium.

Soccer is about people: players, fans and administrators.

But, most importantly, it is about the little people, the Mamoketes and Bra Joes outside the stadiums who make going to the game the unique South African experience it is.

Nowhere else in the world has any fan enjoyed a championship after a meal of pap and amanqina.

Whoever is responsible for this shambolic state of affairs, take big time soccer back to Limpopo.


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