Another international break, another boring weekend!
Nevertheless, gave me a chance to reflect a bit on my manic week in London recently.
And from a football perspective how much things in the UK have really changed and how different it is compared to our version of the game here in South Africa.
I’m not talking grass roots… I’m talking top flight and national team stuff. I guess the most obvious disparity is the amount of people who actually go to live games.
Last week Bafana Bafana played Zim in a crucial World Cup Qualifier... 2000 lucky souls were allowed in under Covid regulations. The attendance… 1600!
ONE THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED in a province that (reports say) has at least two million Zimbabweans. Let’s forget the home ‘support’, what the hell is up with that?
I went to Newlands and the FNB Stadium over the last month where restricted crowds were allowed and was generally excited just to get back to live sport. Is it because Bafana aren’t very good?
The season before the pandemic Orlando Pirates had the biggest average home attendance in the PSL (16 000), that’s poor if you ask me. Cape Town City market the sh!t out of the club but it’s unusual to see 5 000 spectators in our huge CT Stadium unless Chiefs or Pirates are in town. Have people given up?
And don’t tell me about the cost of tickets and all that. It’s cheap and accessible to most. I remember ex-Santos boss Goolam Allie saying to me many years ago that “if the stadiums were full and the camera-work was as good as it is in Europe, you wouldn’t notice a difference in the quality of football”.
Not sure if he was on LSD back then? The football is relatively poor here (despite having a bounty of amazing talent on the ground), but should that stop the crowds? What ever happened to supporting a team?
Why do communities come out in their droves in the UK to watch third division or amateur league football every week, because the quality is [email protected] there too.
Securing a seat for nearly any game in the Premier League is virtually impossible unless you are a member of a club. It’s a similar story for England games, whether it’s against Germany or Andorra. Saying all that, what has really changed in the UK is the type of people who attend matches, again, I’m talking top-flight.
Working-class people have increasingly been priced out of the game, going to football has become more like going to a ‘show’.
Everything is geared to draining fans of as much revenue as possible. Yes, there’s still your Burnley’s and your Newcastle’s who retain proud community support (well, not sure how much longer on Tyneside?), but that heart-driven loyalty ain’t nothing like it used to be.
I’ve had this conversation so many times over the years but still haven’t reached a conclusion? It’s not like the middle-classes have taken over football in SA like they have in the UK.
Is it a factor that most marketing of the PSL is geared towards a specific sector of the population? Did someone just shout “Babize Bonke”. Or could it be that foreign football (England in particular) is so well marketed and the standard so high, that we’d rather be putting our energy there than here? Either way, for me personally, the whole live football experience in England and South Africa is dead.
Dead in England because the passion has been driven out of the stands and here because no one gives a sh!t. I don’t glorify or support violence, but I have to admit (and it’s embarrassing), when I was on the train to Heathrow, an announcement was made and I missed which station it was …. “station has been temporarily closed due to football violence” it was the day Liverpool travelled to West Ham.
Somewhere deep down in me I thought thank god there’s still some people left out there who actually care.
I know that sounds completely twisted… good people, following that disclosure, on a more sensible note, the sooner we all get vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to some kind of normality AND (hopefully) start filling our stadiums… stay safe, chat next week.