Showing indiscriminate support for local soccer is a must

2008-07-26 00:00

What is arguably the biggest and most lucrative pre-season tournament in Africa, the Vodacom Cup is taking place with South Africa’s biggest clubs — Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates — taking on England and Europe’s best club, Manchester United, at various venues across the country.

A lot has been said about what the South African Football Association (Safa), the government and other key stakeholders need to get right.

On the one hand, Safa made sure that South Africa was awarded the first Fifa World Cup in its history and, despite negative media coverage and false alarms, most seems to be on track. Even Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer has been singing our praises.

On the other hand, the government has forked out billions of rands and continues to be on call to provide resources, financial and political, to make sure that South Africa makes good on its promise to deliver an unforgettable and historic spectacle.

The question that remains is, what have South Africans done to meet their end of the bargain? I cannot say I am surprised to see the high level of support that Manchester United enjoys among Indian and white South Africans.

What continues to surprise me is the lack of suppport these people have shown for the local game, yet they expect Bafana Bafana to do wonders at the 2010 finals. It defies logic.

I can safely assume that the last time local Manchester United supporters were at a soccer stadium was when the Red Devils were in South Africa two seasons ago. This just shows how much these people care about local soccer and about South Africa doing well at the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

There is something very un-South African about this and companies also need to play their part. It’s said that when Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs play in South Africa, corporate suites are often out of bounds. However, when Manchester United are in town, all suites are open.

The question arises: how many non-black South Africans have made an effort to integrate themselves into the diverse communities making up South Africa? Learning an African language would be a start.

United are successful because locals in Manchester and the United Kingdom gave them unconditional support when they were nobody on the global football radar.

Being an Arsenal supporter myself, I would not give up my mortar but I always support that which is local, indiscriminately, across the sporting spectrum.

Locals, regardless of their race, providing support for overseas clubs can only be hypocritical and smacks of being a sellout if no support is provided for local clubs.

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