Monday night’s chaos was a bad advert for soccer in SA
SA football fans need to be schooled in punctuality, and the PSL needs to schedule big games for Saturdays
No matter how hard the Premier Soccer League tries, Mamelodi Sundowns’ continued and cherished involvement in the CAF Champions League tournament always messes up their works. With the complexities that come with CAF continental football, the PSL will forever be stymied. Fixture congestion remains a problem.
Monday’s crackerjack PSL game between Sundowns and Orlando Pirates lived up to its billing on the field but came with the same logistical problems that seemingly follow Category A PSL games.
It has become the norm for big games to begin 15 minutes late but it is unacceptable in every respect.
I experienced being stuck in traffic despite leaving home reasonably early. I saw what other fans see and why they decide to watch from the comfort of their lounges instead of being delayed to and from the game. Abysmal traffic management and the lack of safe parking at the Orlando Stadium precinct contributed to the mess.
The stadium’s location creates a serious bottleneck that could be deadly for pedestrians and drivers. (Then again, stadiums with better parking facilities also have this issue.) A major reason for this is the tardiness of SA football fans. Even for 3pm and 3.30pm winter and summer Saturday kickoffs, fans still take their time getting to the stadium. Once they hear the game has kicked off, the mass of fans rushing towards their seats has the potential to be highly problematic.
As the tragic event at Ellis Park on April 11 2001 taught us, big midweek games don't work.
What’s worse is that even if there’s sufficient education about arriving early at the match venue and making sure there are adequate and safe parking facilities provided, the “African time” mentality prevalent in fans takes SA football back to the stone age.
Yes, there are challenges with the unreliability of public transport – but that further emphasises the need to ensure blue-chip games take place on a Saturday.
Considering what took place at Loftus Versfeld on February 11 2017, the magnitude of the Pirates-Sundowns fixture can no longer be taken lightly. It takes pride of place in the SA football calendar because of their recent continental exploits. It will never reach the stratospheric heights of the Soweto Derby, but from a football perspective this is probably the most competitive game in SA football.
Seldom do these sides meet with nothing at stake. For this reason alone the game must not, under any circumstances, take place during the week. There is so much that can and will go wrong. But more importantly, SA football fans need to be schooled in punctuality. Significantly, SA football needs the Pirates and Chiefs rivalry against Sundowns as a unique selling point outside of the Derby. Monday’s chaos was far from the best advertisement and SA’s sluggish fans had a lot to do with that.