Extra-strongs flex muscles in the Calabash

2013-07-28 14:00

Some local club fans might still feel hard done by because of the scrapping of the Charity Spectacular Cup from the domestic football calendar, but the Carling Black Label Cup yesterday proved yet again that it is Mzansi’s preseason real deal.

With a sold-out crowd crammed into the Calabash, the extravaganza emerged as one of the barometers to be used to improve poor turnouts at Absa Premiership matches.

Newly appointed Premier Soccer League CEO Brand de Villiers need look no further than the razzmatazz ignited by Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in his bid to bring back the crowds.

From the marketing of the event to the fans’ response, the Cup left the masses punch drunk with excitement all round and there was a feeling of the good old times.

The strategy used by Chiefs and Pirates to run the Black Label Cup means everyone was invited to the occasion yesterday.

The two sets of fans voted for the starting line-ups and also had a say in selecting one of their own – the guest coaches – to guide the teams.

Off the pitch, it was all things bright and beautiful with gold, black and white the dominant colours.

The izikhothane were in the VIP section showing off, as has been the Soweto derby tradition over the years, and some even arrived in chauffeur-driven limousines.

Ticket holders in the unreserved seats – known as “extra-strongs” in soccer parlance – were not to be outdone and had their own way with vuvuzelas blasting and a deserved break with draught beer at intervals.

But timekeeping remains a chronic ailment for local fans. Many made their way in just a few minutes before the 3.30pm kickoff, pointing to another issue – the problematic traffic management at football games.

By the time referee Victor Gomes got the game under way, a cacophony reverberated across the iconic arena with almost every seat in the house occupied.

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