Mother City Gets What’s Due To Her
Welcome to Cape Town.
This was my succinct reaction after the recent announcement that this year’s Nedbank Cup final will be played at Cape Town Stadium on 19 May. It must have felt too good to be true for many of you out there, especially considering that the last time the city hosted a cup final was in 2003 when Santos beat Ajax Cape Town 2-0 in the Absa Cup at Athlone Stadium. Gee whiz, that’s a whopping 15 years!
The Western Cape is home to a large number of the football-loving community in South Africa. For as long as one can remember, people have come from different parts of the country to settle in the Cape townships and one of the things that brings them together is their love for the beautiful game. Despite staying some distance from the local stadiums used for Absa Premiership matches, they move mountains to ensure they attend games, more especially when big guns like Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns are in town. These games attract a fairly decent crowd even on midweek nights, notwithstanding the distance that the supporters have to travel to get to and from these matches, as well as the fact that there is work to think about the following day. No, nothing will stand in their way of seeing their favourite stars live in action and soaking up the atmosphere. Such an experience means the world to them. Don’t forget about the hardships of life that tend to afflict this sector of society, the most glaring of which is staring poverty in the face, but football brings a smile to them and enormously enriches their spirit.
So it was understandable that whenever Durban or Port Elizabeth or another city was announced as the host for a cup final over the years, the Cape Town football fan would become grumpy and ask, “Why not me?” Indeed, they had done all they could to show that they love football and deserve a big event on their shores, not just the odd game against a big team. When the CHAN tournament was hosted in the Mother City in 2014, the locals came out in their droves and created a lekker atmosphere. That then Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula referred to Bafana Bafana as “a bunch of losers” after the tournament is irrelevant now because the “bunch of winners” was undoubtedly the supporters who came out in their numbers. We are talking here about supporters who have always been willing to make the trip to wherever a cup final is being played, risking life and limb, and at great financial cost, despite seeming to be treated like stepchildren in the greater scheme of things.
Another benefit of hosting this final in Cape Town is that it is historically a tourist destination of note, and the spinoffs for the local economy will be huge that weekend. The magnificent stadium is situated not far from Robben Island and overlooks Table Mountain and surely a good number of people who will saunter into the city on May 19 will be keen to visit these iconic sites before or after the match. Not to mention the meat lovers who will flock to establishments like Mzoli’s in Gugulethu! Although I have been trying to get my head around why it took so long for the province to get what’s due to it in terms of footballing spectacles, I think this is a victory for Nedbank, for the fans and for football.
The competition’s sponsors are guaranteed a full house, especially if one of the two big teams left in the tournament goes all the way to the final. That I guarantee, and if it doesn’t happen, I am willing to walk naked along the Sea Point Promenade in broad daylight! For the fans, it means a day out enjoying the experience with fellow supporters, friends and family. I already imagine a long-suffering football lover from Khayelitsha getting his neighbours to push his skorokoro two hours before the game, as he prepares for the journey to the stadium. I imagine a young boy urging his dad to hurry up as he is in a rush to go see Siphiwe Tshabalala, for example. At the end of it all, football will be the winner because no matter who goes on to win it, two teams would have had a go at it in a beautiful stadium, on a great pitch, with two sets of fans cheering them on.
Methinks the timing could also not have been any better if one considers that the love and passion for the game among the local fans have gone a notch higher since the introduction of Cape Town City into the fray. The Citizens have captured the imagination of all and sundry with their brand presence and continued improvement on the field of play. So much so that I think they may have ‘stolen’ the hearts of some of the Ajax Cape Town supporters, something that must not have gone down well with their neighbours. If anything, that increases the rivalry between the two teams and don’t we all love it!
For far too long, football has taken a backseat in this city, and you do not have to look far back to realise this. The most anticipated fixture of the Last 16, between Cape Town City and Orlando Pirates, was played on a midweek, as Cape Town Stadium was not available for football due to the annual Cape Town Cycle Tour, while it was not clear why Athlone Stadium was not considered as an alternative venue. Cape Town City and the City of Cape Town have been at loggerheads a lot, mainly due to a lack of a training venue for the club, with the side even threatening to move out of the city and find a home elsewhere at one stage.
Well, for now, let’s let the Mother City bask in all the glory. May 19... save the date, will you?