Forget the soccer, it’s the day for handbags and glad rags
Soweto derby features a limp Pirates and Chiefs, but that barely matters on this grand Joburg social occasion
Tickets sold out for Saturday’s Soweto Derby more than a week before the game despite the limp showing from Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates this season. It highlights its status as SA’s biggest sporting event and a social occasion not to be missed.
The derby has gone through many guises in its close-on 50-year history, once a scene of violence and tragic death, it is now a place to be seen and a key event on the Johannesburg social scene.
Expect politicians, government officials, business leaders and the glitterati to attend, along with ordinary fans who will be there to support their team but also to be part of the occasion. For many young socialites it is a must-have ticket, with the football secondary as they sit glued to their cellphone screens waiting for the reactions to their Instagram posts – like those who go to big-ticket horse-racing events without being able to name a single runner.
It is all despite a general steady decline in the entertainment on the pitch over the past few years, with the football stale and teams too scared to lose rather than going for the win. Just 10 goals scored in the past seven derby matches tells its own story – and four of those came in the previous fixture played in March when Pirates continued their recent dominance with a 3-1 victory.
Perhaps that last game, and the goals scored, has fired up fans for Saturday’s encounter, especially as there was no Carling Black Label Champions Cup in the preseason to offer some sort of derby fix.
Seven months has been a long wait for Chiefs fans to gain their revenge and end their horror nine-game winless run against the Buccaneers, the longest in the club’s five decade history. There is also the feeling that the teams’ lackluster start to the new season, in which they have only seven league wins from 20 games between them, might see more of a go-for-broke approach.
They will be guarded against defeat but both coaches know how vital a win could be, boosting morale and potentially setting them up for a winning run in what is a busy schedule to the end of the year.
The fact that the teams have scored only 25 goals in the 20 matches they have played between them also suggests this will be no goals-fest. But it is hard to make a case for going to the game based on the likely entertainment on the pitch, especially as both teams struggle with home attendances in Soweto. Fans have more likely snapped up tickets because a derby, no matter the circumstances, is an occasion not to be missed.
The rivalry between Chiefs and Pirates, these days friendly and cordial, and mostly confined to barbs on social media, brings entertainment of its own. But there is no simmering tension like in El Clásico in Spain or the Merseyside Derby in England between Everton and Liverpool.
The derby has become a fun day out for most fans rather than a nerve-wracking, edge-of-the-seat encounter that most big local rivalries around the world provide.