Soccer fans embrace continent

The atmosphere at Caledonian Stadium on Saturday where Basetsana played the DRC was encouraging in the fight against xenophobia.

The atmosphere at Caledonian Stadium on Saturday where Basetsana played the DRC was encouraging in the fight against xenophobia.

The match was attended by a number of Congolese who mingled freely with local supporters before, during and after the match.

This is commended in the wake of the highly-criticised current attacks on foreign nationals that has embarrassed South Africa.

But South African football fans are known and respected for being welcoming towards foreign supporters and teams in the country.

The same goes for Safa and government, who always give visiting teams, their officials and journalists five-star treatment when playing in Mzansi.

I can't remember a situation where local football fans attacked foreigners at the stadium because of xenophobia.

You can see locals engaging in healthy football debate with foreigners and their arguments always continue elsewhere after the games without any attacks.

Many South Africans are concerned with the spate of attacks on foreigners, which have resulted in death.

A majority of them now fear for the lives of our players, officials and journalists when our teams play on the continent.

People were asking last week if Bafana Bafana will be safe in Nigeria, where they played the Super Eagles in Abuja yesterday.

I asked some of these concerned people if it would be anything new if Bafana were attacked or treated shabbily in other African countries?

I took them down memory lane - the life-threatening incidents in Zimbabwe, where missiles were thrown at our players. It was scary, with teargas smoke engulfing the stadium. Remember Congo? Ask Mark Fish.

Our teams have been subjected to shabby treatment regarding, among other things, accommodation, transport, verbal abuse, unavailability of practice venues, bumpy stadiums and refereeing.

Sometimes we are intimidated by gun-wielding soldiers who don't stand far from the action on the pitch.

So let's continue to embrace foreigners like we did at the Basetsana match.

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