THE fact that there are football fans in Pietermaritzburg who do not support Maritzburg United is something that Dutch attacker Orlando Smeekes is struggling to come to terms with.
The 30-year-old joined United at the start of the season from third-tier German club SV Wehen Wiesbaden, and while he has slotted in nicely under coach Ernst Middendorp, Smeekes is concerned by the lack of support that the Team of Choice got in their first home match of the season against AmaZulu last month.
“For me it is crazy, where I come from you support the team from the area you are from,” Smeekes told The Witness yesterday. “Even if there is a team two kilometres away, you still support the team that you are from. South Africa is such a big country, and I don’t know why there aren’t more people at the games.”
The winger, who has featured in all three of United’s league matches this season off the bench, added that the support of the fans would make the jobs of the footballers a lot easier.
“People need to have a change of mentality and start supporting their team,” he said. “We need their support and we are calling for them to give it to us.”
With his wife and newborn baby arriving in South Africa this week, Smeekes said that he was extremely happy with his new life.
“It is a lovely country and my wife seems to like it very much,” he said. “In the beginning I was struggling with the altitude, but I am fitter now and my body is feeling good.”
Turning his attention to this weekend’s PSL clash with Free State Stars at Harry Gwala stadium, Smeekes said that United shouldn’t get distracted with what Steve Khompela and his formidable squad have up their sleeves.
“We need to play our own game and not lose our concentration,” he said. “I think it will be a good game and we are very focused.”
While every footballer relishes a start, Smeekes says that he is quite happy being used as an impact player. He has shown the pace and ability in his three cameo appearances so far that suggest that there will be a bigger role for him to play this season, and there is the possibility of his being given his first start for United on Friday.
“For me it is no problem. The coach is the one who decides on the team,” said Smeekes. “I can play off the bench as an impact player or I can start — it is no problem.”
Commenting on his short experience in the PSL so far, Smeekes said that he was impressed by the quality of the league.
“There are a lot of good individual players who have a lot of potential,” he said.
Friday night’s match kicks off at 8 pm and will not be televised.