Celtic belongs to people of the Free State

2016-05-11 06:00
Unathi Henama, Social observer.

Unathi Henama, Social observer.

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CHARLES DICKENS, in his 1859 classical work, A Tale of Two Cities, stated: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.’’

In July 2014, the air was thick with rumours that Max Tshabalala would buy Bloemfontein Celtic. The deal was finally sealed by the former owner of Roses United. The sale of Celtic has always been done with the interest of the people of Bloemfontein specifically and the Free State generally at heart. Celtic are not just a brand, it is a way of life and part of the rich fabric of the people of central South Africa. Owning a club like Celtic must have been one of the the proudest moments in the life of Tshabalala: the best of times. Tshabalala could hold his head high, his legacy in owning a local soccer team is written in the skies. But if owning Celtic was a poisoned chalice, he should be allowed the benefit of disinvesting and improving the quality of his life.

When one walks down the street, the only reality one encounters is words of hurt instead of comfort. Conspiracy theories abound and unsavoury comments are directed towards the Free State premier, Ace Magashule. Rumours about a possible takeover of the club by him are misguided. Rumours that the sale of Celtic to a black Free Stater as a proxy sale transacted under the cover of darkness to Magashule is an insult to this great citizen of the Free State – the worst of times.

For those that forgot, soccer is a business. If Tshabalala sold Celtic, I’m of the view that Bloemfontein and the greater Free State would be worse off. The unhappiness of fans about some decisions made by the management can be filtered through the structures of the team. What is lacking in this discourse of hate towards Tshabalala is a concrete plan on how fans can own a stake in the club. Celtic could have used the model at Bayern Munich, where the club’s 82% shareholding is in the hands of the fans. These are groundbreaking discussions that could have occurred during the best of times to convince Tshabalala to sell part of his stake to Celtic fans, ensuring that it becomes a team truly owned by the community. This could possibly have been an opportunity to list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and transform this team with fresh money, like the Arabs did when they bought out Manchester City. Anyway, the worst of times do not last forever. As one elder once said, the evening is at its darkest just before the break of dawn.

) To comment or express your views about the issue highlighted in the column, go to www.express-news.co.za.

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