Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Back to normality?

Afcon 2013 is no more. Last night, South Africa’s Premier Soccer League restarted, but with a whimper as Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs played to a dour 0-0 stalemate at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. With seven of Bafana’s regulars in Chiefs’ starting eleven, fatigue appeared to play a part in a slow, plodding performance with some very poor decision making. Sundowns were the stronger side for the first half but neither side created many clear-cut chances.

Reacquainting myself with old friends and new

The game did not match the anticipation of the fans, who were eagerly awaiting the resumption of league football. Fans were still streaming in as the second half commenced, a combination of hectic traffic jams between Jo’burg and Pretoria, and fans leaving it until the last minute to make the journey. Still, with Chiefs supporters outnumbering Sundowns by at least two to one, it didn’t seem like an away game, although with Chiefs’ nationwide support, no game is an away game. 

The "home" fans

It was my first PSL game since I left South Africa in 2009, and two things struck me. Firstly, either the fans have got richer or the clubs are fleecing the fans for even more. I already knew about the ticket price hikes; it cost R20 for most Chiefs games in 2009 but last night cost R40 (£2.80). The price of food and drink had also risen by R5-10 but given the increase in food prices generally, this too was unsurprising. Yet, so many Chiefs fans appear have smartphones and tablets. When I wrote my thesis, such displays of wealth were at these games were rare. Not any more (and who in their right mind takes an iPad to a football match?).  I’ve previously complained about the high price of merchandise but I was shocked to be told by one fan that the Chiefs’ training jersey allegedly costs the princely sum of R800 (£57)! Yet as this fan said, “they know we will still pay for it”. Being a football supporter in South Africa is becoming an increasingly exclusive pastime.

South African football may not be the best but the fans know how to get dressed up

Secondly, in many PSL games that I went to during 2008-9, I often found myself as the token white guy in the crowd. People would want to have their photo taken with me, call me umlungu (Zulu for white person, although it has negative connotations) or just stare at me. This still happened last night but I was far from the only one. The World Cup and Afcon 2013 may yet have a positive legacy in South Africa football.

Taking bread to matches signifies beating the opposition as their daily bread but I can't for the life of me think what the significance of this is...

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to help you out with the bread on head image. I think it could be a reference to Old Testament military analogies such as Numbers 14:9 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+14%3A9&version=NKJV)

    This is also links to 1 Samuel 17 where, as I am sure you will know, David cut off the giant Goliath's head.

    The fusion of this imagery is perhaps most clearly seen in the Rick Pino's song (I think its called "Your an army"), which features the line:

    We cut off the giants head
    We eat giants for our bread...

    And as you will know more about than I do, there is much in common between battle language and football.

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