A giant leap backwards for South African football
MOST people, and perhaps the entire nation, would have liked to see a vast improvement in South African football both on and off the pitch as a legacy to the fabulous World Cup we hosted two years ago.
Generally, 2010 made for some dizzying highs that could only spawn optimists all around about the future of the sport here.
But scenes such as those witnessed on Saturday night at Orlando Stadium - perhaps the midwife that more than helped deliver professional football in this country - are a giant leap backwards.
Though the jury might still be out and due process has to be respected, what Orlando Pirates fans did to vent their anger over the 0-3 loss to SuperSport United - pelting players and officials with all sorts of missiles and turning the pitch into a rubbish dump - is unacceptable.
That such thuggery was visited on hallowed turf is regrettable.
The problem is that football authorities in this country have always trodden carefully around the problem and meted out ridiculously lenient sentences.
This has done little to improve behaviour in the stands and has conversely almost encouraged louts who pass for soccer fans to take advantage and wreak havoc like they did on Saturday night.
The harshest penalty handed to a club whose supporters rioted has been the banishment of spectators at matches. The self-same Pirates and rivals Kaizer Chiefs have had a taste of that. But clearly it is not working.
A new and stricter approach is needed.
The Premier Soccer League should rid itself of this inexplicable fear of so-called big clubs. We think it's time clubs are docked points and the hooligans barred from stadiums.
In the main it's just a few rotten apples that spoil the pack but until a way is found to isolate them the problem will simply not disappear.
Proper ticketing was supposed to be one of the legacies of the World Cup and would have come in handy when the need arose to spot offenders and throw the book at them. We would suggest that criminal charges bepursued as well.
Reserved seating worked so well during the World Cup we wonder why the system was not carried over into the local game.
For several seasons now the seating arrangements at the Soweto Derby, matches between Pirates and Chiefs, have been a disaster waiting to happen. Instead of separating fans as is the norm the world over, the two sets of supporters sit shoulder to shoulder these days.
A few fist fights broke out at the Pirates-SuperSport match on Saturday. Similar altercations at the derby could leave this country mourning unnecessary losses of life.