Politics and sport clash while big guns sleep

2014-03-02 14:00

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Eat your heart out, Julius Malema. The Economic Freedom Fighters no longer hold exclusive rights to the red berets.

Orlando Pirates now have their own.

While Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs – the two biggest clubs in the country – are still “considering” making the berets part of their official fan merchandise, PSL newcomers Polokwane City are leading the beret soccer revolution.

Berets bearing the two Soweto giants’ logos are increasingly becoming a feature at football matches, but the clubs have distanced themselves from the trend.

On the contrary, City pride themselves on being the only team in the league with berets as part of the club’s official fan merchandise.

Nedbank Cup organisers also jumped on to the bandwagon when they launched the competition last week, dishing out 400 green berets.

City communications manager Patrick Baloyi admitted they had copied the idea from politics, saying it was a marketing strategy to grow the club’s support base.

But he emphasised their strategy was to convert the beret regalia from being a political symbol to a football one.

“The berets are part of our team’s unique identity and the response from supporters has been overwhelming,” said Baloyi.

“We were inspired by politics. We can’t avoid it because politics is part of our daily lives.”

City’s orange berets, which according to Baloyi were well received, are brighter than those of Chiefs and Pirates fans, which are black and red, respectively.

Nedbank’s head of marketing, Sydney Mbhele, believes berets are “the in thing and an interesting trend”, adding that no one can claim absolute ownership of the beret.

The mission and vision of the Nedbank Cup was to “revolutionise” football every year, he stated.

Mbhele believes featuring berets in the Nedbank Cup was also to demonstrate relevance to the broader society.

“As Nedbank, we have always loved promotional gimmicks that appeal to everyone, and berets

just happened to be the one this season,” said Mbhele.

Like Baloyi, Mbhele conceded it was fitting for football fans to wear berets as they happened to be the same people who attended political rallies.

“The way football fans subscribe emotionally to their teams is more or less the same as they do to their political parties and it is the same people,” said Mbhele.

But he emphasised Nedbank was not interested in politics because their focus was on banking and football development.

“South Africans are emotional and patriotic people by nature and berets are the core of who we are,” he added.

Chiefs and Pirates officials admitted to having seen berets with the teams’ branding but stated that they were “fake”.

Pirates spokesperson Mickey Modisane said the club had no berets under its registered supporter merchandise.

But he maintained they were entertaining the idea provided there was mass demand.

The challenge with the available berets was that they did not have Pirates’ official logo, he said.

“We need a bit of input from our side and then we can take it from there, but we distance ourselves from the existing fake berets,” said Modisane.

Chiefs supporters club retail manager Emmanuel Khumalo echoed Modisane’s sentiments, saying fans were branding the berets themselves.

On officially bringing the fashionable headgear to The Village retail store, he said: “At Naturena, we consider everything our fans want but the ones you have spotted are fake.”

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