All the money in the world can’t buy soccer supporters

2013-07-20 00:00

AMAZULU’s victory over Manchester City at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Thursday night is one that, as coach Craig Rosslee correctly pointed out after the match, will stay with the Durban club forever.

Despite the clash being little more than a training ground affair for the 2011/12 English Premier League champions, the result will stand in the record books and our local lads will always be able to look back at the day they conquered the English giants.

But a look at the size of the crowd that made their way to the stadium suggests that nobody really seemed to care. The same can be said about Sunday’s meeting at Loftus, where City lost to SuperSport United in front of an equally meagre audience.

South Africa is a football-mad nation — of that there is no doubt — and one would think that the opportunity to see one of Europe’s “biggest” and richest clubs, littered with superstars, would be enough to interest the public.

While event organisers will be hanging their heads in shame at what was a dismal attempt at throwing Madiba the grandest of all birthday parties, there is a small comfort to be taken from the fact that City’s visit to SA went so largely unnoticed.

The sums of money that are floating around football at the highest level today are enough to make most working men nauseous. Clubs of City’s stature seem to be able to get whatever they want. Players, stadiums and coaches are all bought for sums of money that are, at times, mind-boggling. And as City (the season before last) and Chelsea have both proved in recent history, a club with money can even buy trophies.

But the one glimmer of light that is left, as this tour so obviously proved, is that all of the money in the world cannot buy a football club fans.

While City is a club rich in history and tradition, they have not been plying their trade at the top level for long enough. SA’s football fans are loyal — in many instances more so in their English than local affections. Why that is, is comment for another day.

The point is that City are a long way away from turning any South African hearts sky blue. Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and — to a lesser extent — Chelsea are still the names most often mentioned when South Africans are asked to pledge their allegiance to England.

While equal to or more powerful than all of these teams, City are not as “big” as any. If they are to reach this level of universal acclaim, they will have to earn it through a period of dominance in English football that turns heads, and that means winning the league more than once.

Best they get spending.

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