Nothing like a live soccer match

2009-10-07 00:00

LAST Friday night I went to watch Maritzburg United play, hoping that they might show Mamelodi Sundowns a thing or two on their home ground. The soccer spectator experience makes me aware that the masses will always want to be at the centre of the action.

The soccer field is an example of instant democracy. The players are the politicians, passing and dribbling, while the spectators are the thousands who vote for the winning team. Purchase of that ticket guarantees the supporter the right to shout at the players about their strategy. Order, in the form of positions and expectations, confines the players to nothing but fair play. Everybody knows their positions and strives to wow the crowd with the space they have and take care of balls delivered to them. As goals are created, strikers must deliver.

Well, if only it was as simple as that. Like all situations, real-life elements cause ripples in the perfect environment. The most obvious is the amount of smoking on the grounds, which makes you wonder about the level of concern for other people. Smoking seems to have replaced the consumption of alcohol. I guess alcohol company billboards are a bit beyond subliminal?

While watching a game recently, someone was smoking so much I almost faked an allergy. Fanning away the smoke, I wondered what the expectations will be when we watch Soccer World Cup matches. Allergies exist parallel to addiction. Spectatorship or supporter loyalty could prove to be a tolerable addiction. I guess fan loyalty piggybacks on this vice. We will prove this next year when most people stay away from work to watch the soccer.

Watching a live match offers one choices, as one’s focus is not limited to watching the camera zoom in and out for television broadcasts. Live matches

allow me to appreciate the fans who come in their numbers and advertise which team they are rooting for. The last home-ground match I watched was Maritzburg United versus Celtics in mid-August. Celtics fans did a township haka and sang while not even watching the match. Maritzburg supporters were on the lookout for whatever tricks the referee might pull to disadvantage their team.

In a way, in the stadium you feel like you are in a bubble of security. After being frisked for possible weapons I am usually left asking myself how much of a threat I look. I was pleased to witness a little justice when I saw a man in a green jersey and white pants escorted out of the stadium by eight policemen, who held him by the loops of his trousers. I never found out what he had done wrong, but I was happy that safety and security were in order.

Except for screaming for goals I tend to minimise my noise. I can’t say the same for the two wannabe soccer commentators who were behind me. They related blow-for-blow what was wrong with the match and the opposition. They were a cross between commentating, coaching and script writing. There were moments when I found their viewpoint resourceful and convincing though.

And the visiting team’s win made me appreciate the short attention span of the fan who left just five minutes after the match had begun.

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