PSL stadium vendors: ‘We’re in a dark hole and don’t know how to get out’

No Absa Premiership matches were broadcast on SABC on Saturday leaving thousands of soccer fans stranded.
No Absa Premiership matches were broadcast on SABC on Saturday leaving thousands of soccer fans stranded.
Image: Gallo Images

The suspension of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) that has led to a national shutdown from Friday has left informal football merchandisers in complete financial ruin.

Merchandisers are small businessesmen and women who make a living by selling football regalia and food and beverages during PSL matches and entertainment events around the country.

Since football was suspended last week‚ merchandisers like Eric Hlakudi and Abram Mariri‚ who travel to big football matches involving Kaizer Chiefs‚ Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns around the country‚ have been idling at home with no income.

“We are sitting at home doing nothing and this is very bad for us because we have responsibilities as parents‚” said Hlakudi who has since returned back home to Sekhukhune in Limpopo.

“The way things are at the moment with this coronavirus‚ there is nothing we can do because there are no sports and entertainment events happening. Though it is hard on us because we have no income to feed ourselves and our families‚ I understand that the government is trying to control the spread of this virus.

“We work in an environment where there are always more than 100 people and we will be at risk if football was not suspended.

“We are in a very difficult situation because we don’t know how we are going to survive and we are not blaming anyone. This shutdown is what is needed to happen so that people‚ including us‚ don’t catch the virus and possibly die.

“We will have to rely on the grants of the elderly at home because we don’t have anything.”

This week Minister of Small Business Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni launched a debt relief fund to help mitigate the impact of the economic shutdown on small‚ micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs).

Hlakudi‚ Mariri and possibly many others in the informal sector are not sure if they are going to benefit.

“I have heard about this thing that small businesses are going to get financial assistance from the government. I don’t know what the procedures are to be followed in order to get help. We will ask those who know and maybe we will benefit‚” said Hlakudi.

Asked about his situation‚ Mariri said it is dire because he relies on the “little money” he gets from selling sporting regalia‚ food‚ cold drinks and cigarettes outside stadiums to support his family.

“Most of us have children that we look after with the little money we get from selling at stadiums. We are in a dark hole and no one knows how we are going to get out‚ things are really bad my brother because of this coronavirus‚” said Mariri.

“We have to pay rent to be able to keep our rooms for next month. We must buy food for children‚ for ourselves and other daily necessities like transport – how are we going to be able to pay for all these things if we don’t have income?

“Even if we wanted to force things‚ who are we going to sell to because there is no football‚ there are music festivals and in the coming 21 days there are not even going to be people on streets?”

Mariri admitted that he doesn’t know much about relief measures by government for SMMEs but said he and his colleagues they will seek information to see if they can benefit.

“I have even tried knitting school uniforms but there it’s also quiet because schools are closed and we don’t know when they are going to open again. We will pick up the pieces when we come back but for now it’s just to sit and do nothing.”

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