Where did the Durban fans go?

Sport24 columnist S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
Sport24 columnist S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
There was a time when Bafana Bafana could fill any stadium in this country.

This was when the team was a hit and everybody wanted to be associated with the team.

Unfortunately, this is the not the case anymore. And reasons are not very difficult to find either.

You must know that things and times are bad when the national team cannot even fill a Durban stadium.

For years, Durban has almost served South African football as a dumping ground. While the city has had its fare share of big and exciting soccer matches, it is also fair to say that whenever a not so exciting match that the big soccer honchos felt would not be found appetising for the cozy and spoilt Gauteng followers, the first option would be Durban.

Some years back, I pointed out that Durban soccer followers - or KZN followers - would at some stage wake, smell the coffee and realise that they were being treated as second-class football citizens.

They would start being choosy and not just attend in big numbers each and every match that is thrown their way.

The rows and rows at the Moses Mabhida Stadium for last week’s Nelson Mandela Challenge against Nigeria must be taken as a serious indication that this time is imminent.

Worse still is the fact that Bafana were facing their nemesis in Nigeria, a match that is guaranteed to provide fireworks.

As the saying goes that you cannot fool all the people all the time, while we all owe our allegiance to the national team, we cannot be fooled all the time to follow something that is not working.

At some stage, Bafana Bafana need to win convincingly and consistently. I know, someone might say: But they won against Burkina Faso.

Yes, indeed they did. But which Burkina Faso? How many players who were in the team that lost in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations final against Nigeria earlier this year, was in that side that played Bafana?

Which brings me to another point: Did those in charge of football fail to inform our dear Minister of Sports and Recreation, the Honourable Fikile “Mr Razzmatazz” Mbalula that the date he had chosen for the Nelson Mandela Sports and Cultural Day, fell out of the FIFA calendar.

This meant that the Burkinabe could not be forced to bring their European-based players. That is the reason why even our overseas-based players such as Tokelo Rantie and Dean Furman, had to jet out after the Nigeria match, which fell on a FIFA date.

Worse still, Orlando Pirates had a Confederations of African Football (CAF) engagement at Orlando Stadium, a venue that is a mere stone's throw away from FNB Stadium.

While there were some supporters who managed to attend both matches, not many have such deep pockets that they can pay for two soccer matches on the same day plus pay for transport to two separate venues.

Proper planning is needed but also, we need a good showing from Bafana Bafana to get the crowds back as the saying goes: Everybody loves a winner.

The 2014 Soccer World Cup qualifier against Botswana to be played in Durban is looming, and I doubt that the Moses Mabhida Stadium will be full as not many are convinced that the national team is out of the quagmire yet.

We need a number of convincing performances for full crowds to be back at Bafana Bafana matches.

The ball is at the South African Football Association’s (SAFA) court to turn things around to enjoy the support they once did.

Think 1996! And sadly, that is almost 20 years ago.

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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