SAVE YOUR PATRIOTSIM FOR BAFANA BAFANA
By Mosibodi Whitehead
Orlando Pirates success in reaching the final of the CAF Confederations Cup has raised some uncomfortable questions about rivalry versus patriotism. Pirates fans are riding high after reaching their second continental final in 3 years and they are not shy to tell anyone within earshot. But their most vociferous bragging is reserved for the fans of arch rivals Kaizer Chiefs. Often referred to as the undisputed Cup Kings of South Africa, Amakhosi have won more domestic knockout competitions than Serena Williams has grand slam titles, but their success on the continent (or lack thereof) is glaring. Although Chiefs won the Mandela Cup in 2001, which later morphed into the CAF Confederations Cup, Bucs fans are quick to point out they’ve won Africa’s most coveted trophy – the CAF Champions League in 1995 and were finalists in 2013.
And that’s where the rift begins. On Tuesday, Ezminyama nge nkani were greeted by roughly 5000 fans when they touched down at the OR Tambo International Airport after beating Al Ahly on Sunday night to qualify for next month’s Confed Cup final. Many of those fans were Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns followers who came to show their support for a South African team that has performed well on stage where we have long been starved of success. But when asked if they’d be going to the Orlando Stadium on the weekend of the 22nd of November to support the Sea Robbers against Etoile du Sahel, their response was an emphatic no. According to the #ForeverFearless Brigade, they won’t #FillUpOrlando because Pirates fans – drunk on continental success – have told them to save their patriotism for the national team. The Happy People say they don’t want the support of their arch rivals because, in the words of one fan: it is not genuine. It’s plastic support.
I suppose this is characteristic of most rivalries the world over. Would the noisy neighbours support Manchester United in a UEFA Champions final against Bayern Munich? Did the Catalans back the Meringues campaign for La Decima? I think not. But that’s what’s always set South African football apart – at least in the modern age. The spirit of brotherhood that exists between fans of rivals teams. Where South American football is known for violent clashes between opposing fans, here in South Africa (at least in the professional age) we reserve our ire for coaches and referees.
This latest development hints at the future of support for PSL teams. While I don’t ever expect violence between fans of Chiefs and Pirates, The Buccaneers’ continental success has left Amakhosi fans envious – whether they’ll admit it or not. And if Pirates go on to win the Confed Cup then Chiefs fans will never hear the end of it. And if Chiefs fans’ prayers are answered and Pirates lose, then they’ll be the first to say: we wanted to support you, but you told us to save our patriotism for Bafana Bafana – ni layekile!
Gotta love this beautiful game. As Pirates Boss Dr. Irvin Khoza accurately said: “it’s the battle of opions.”