Johannesburg - It is not the same. And it will never be the same.
A football match is not complete without supporters. They create a vibe and atmosphere that is second to none.
But thanks to Orlando Pirates hooligans, almost 14 months ago against Mamelodi Sundowns, we were subjected to this situation.
Pirates and Bidvest Wits found themselves playing in front of empty seats following the PSL disciplinary committee’s ruling to play this game behind closed doors.
As usual security was tight at the venue, except there were no supporters to police.
The two clubs did not even have to use their buses to the stadium.
The security personnel, however, did their usual guard of honour for the players after the game.
A trip that would usually take you just under an hour to the stadium was smooth sailing. Within 15 minutes one was already at the venue.
There was no “uncle, please give me one sparenyana ticket” from the boys who usually hang around a match venue asking for tickets.
It was a weird feeling to be greeted by silence.
A classic was when Pirates players did their usual crossed bones sign before the start of the game to the empty stadium. They even turned around to greet all the empty seats. Only their bench responded.
While off the field there was nothing happening, it was business as usual on it.
The “training” match that took place at Orlando Stadium this week had all the elements supporters would have loved to witness.
There was no hint that Pirates missed their supporters as they hardly raised a sweat to easily record their biggest win of the season.
There were no cheers, zero jeers, no boos, no exchange of hands signalling substitute, and no singing.
Players would have missed the support, but it also showed how free players are when there is no pressure from anyone off the field of play.
Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic summed it up nicely when he said it had more of a training feel than that of a match.
“We need to be sincere about the mood and mode in which we came here to our stadium. Not hearing our supporters being player number 12 is not easy,” Sredojevic said after the game.
The empty stadium gave us a rare chance to hear talkative referee Victor Hlungwani’s voice echoing around the venue.
Hlungwani could be heard calling the players to order and giving instructions.
Supporters were the real losers – four goals, 10 yellow cards and a missed penalty is what they missed.
It was not the same without supporters.
Now the big question is: Will the punishment change the future behaviour of supporters?