Keep Politics Away From Soccer
This past weekend we noticed, once again, another capacity crowd at Mdantsane’s Sisa Dukashe Stadium where Chippa United hosted Mamelodi Sundowns in the Telkom Knockout Last 16. If the rumours doing the rounds are anything to go by, that could have been the last game played at the venue under the auspices of the Absa Premiership, at least this season.
Word has it that the Buffalo City Municipality has reneged on their contract to have the Nelson Mandela Bay-based club play some of their games in the City. We are talking just over 300kms distance and, with Chippa being the only PSL team in the province, it made perfect sense to have them spread across the province. To add salt to the wound, this partnership between Chippa and the City was taking the game back to the people in an era where we are greeted by mostly empty stadiums in almost every game. The results of this initiative are there for everyone to see. Even those who were against this idea, mainly from Port Elizabeth, can’t argue with the fact that the decision to take some of Chippa’s games to East London is bearing results.
According to the information at our desk, the Buffalo City Municipality is looking to ‘divorce’ Chippa out of this deal, which costs the municipality R1m per game, due to the “unsustainability” of the arrangement that has seen Chippa bring Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns, among others, to town. This is a once-in-a-while experience for most of the Eastern Cape soccer-loving people and therefore the success that we’ve seen in crowd attendance and bringing back the football euphoria could be lost yet again.
The relationship between Chippa and the Local Football Association established through this deal is likely to collapse. Chippa recently donated R300 000 to the LFA and that was just one of many ways to plough back to the community. The partnership would go a long way in helping the local teams as well as exposing their talents to professional football.
Growing up in the rural Eastern Cape, I know exactly how it feels to get an opportunity to watch your idols up close and personal. It leaves great memories entrenched in your mind and gives hope to see yourself following in their footsteps one day. I know how happy the youth, aspiring footballers and everyone involved in the game are whenever there’s a PSL game coming to town. I know how disappointed they are with the possibility of not being able to watch any football matches in the comfort of their surroundings again this season, pending the outcome of the municipality’s decision.
The recent games brought back the memories of the days of Bush Bucks who enjoyed huge support from a passionate crowd. For a long time, Eastern Cape has been starved of Absa Premiership football and the initiative by Chippa Chairman, Siviwe Mpengesi, and Buffalo City has gone a long way in restoring hope, reviving football in East London and surrounding areas as well as uplifting the communities through coaching skills and swelling the City’s economy. The street vendors, local business, hotels, garages, shops, restaurants and all benefited a lot from these games and therefore it wouldn’t make any business sense to withdraw from the deal.
The municipality is said to be on a cost-cutting mission, which is understandable and necessary at times. However, if you compare the returns from one PSL game, at R1m, expense, you surely get bang for your buck. The City is said to have a R4m budget for an annual festival. I know my mathematics isn’t great, but don’t you dare compare it to that of Number One’s – comparatively speaking, what four Absa Premiership games can bring at that price is of higher value. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the annual festival, but I’m just driving a point home.
Following the recent political instability in the province, those who are close to the situation have labelled the move by the City as a “political decision” and it doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out. At the time of writing, I was informed of a meeting scheduled to take place between the club and the City in an attempt to sort things out and I really hope that something good will come out of it. If the government is of the people, by the people, for the people, then we should not have anything to worry about.
Let sanity prevail and allow Chippa and the City to continue with the great job of bringing football to the people.
Without this initiative, Bafana Bafana would never have set foot at Buffalo City Stadium in March for their international friendly against Angola. Again, the people of Eastern Cape didn’t disappoint, as they came out in their numbers to welcome their heroes, support them on the night and even went on to bid them farewell. That’s the kind of warmth teams enjoy in the Eastern Cape and it would be very sad to see internal politics putting an end to this growing football ecstasy. Let’s keep internal politics away from soccer.