Fans claim xenophobia in soccer tourney

2012-04-10 00:00

XENOPHOBIC taunts and discrimination against foreign players marred Pietermaritzburg’s annual Easter soccer tournament at the weekend.

This is according to Celtics United FC supporters, who inundated The Witness with calls asking for the alleged incidents to be exposed, saying it was unfair on their players.

Sunny Naidoo, president of organisers the Pietermaritzburg and District Soccer Association (Padsa), said there was no discrimination to his knowledge. He said that, according to SA Football Assocation regulation which Padsa follows, a team can register five foreign players, but can only use three per game.

“I believe that is what happened. However, if there were incidents of xenophobia, we will investigate because we don’t want the biggest amateur tournament in the country to be tarnished by incidents of discrimination,” said Naidoo.

A Celtics supporter described the team as a community team from Ghost Town, in Woodlands, and said he felt they were being discriminated against because they are a poor community. He said that last year foreign players in other teams were not discriminated against.

“Even South African players who are dark in complexion were asked to provide their identity document as proof that they are indeed South Africans and that really demoralised our players,” said a supporter who did not want to be named.

But Naidoo denied this and said they only use cards to identify players. He said it was not true that their officials wanted identity documents.

Another fan said: “We need to expose this because we don’t think it is fair to discriminate against people just because of the colour of their skin.”

He said while players were on the field they were taunted with cries of “amakwerekwere”, a derogatory term for foreigners.

The players who had been targeted declined to comment when approached by The Witness.

The source believed the verbal abuse led to players losing their confidence, causing them to lose the semi-finals. “We would like the Padsa officials to look into this matter and ensure that it never happens again. Soccer should be used to create unity rather than being used to spread discrimination,” he said.

Last night, Naidoo said the tournament was a resounding success despite the lack of sponsorship. Last year winners received R50 000 while this year’s winners got R30 000 and runners up, R15 000. Brazil FC won the tournament beating Styles FC by 3-0.

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