Heeding The Supporters’ Call…
Something good is happening at the Chloorkop-based Mamelodi Sundowns and it has nothing to do with the club’s results, performances or style of play. It has everything to do with the club’s supporters!
The club’s supporters have been crying and demanding for some Mamelodi presence in the club. After all, they are Mamelodi Sundowns, because the fact that no one from their ‘home’ was in the team didn’t sit well with them. Rightfully so, because the team’s supporters didn’t feel the connection between them and the club since there’s no local idol representing the Tshwane township. There was no one of their own, so to speak. The fact that the club’s headquarters are in Johannesburg’s East Rand means there’s almost a 100km distance between the club they call their own and their surroundings. That’s a massive distance especially for a club known to be the Kings of Tshwane. So it made a lot of sense for the supporters to make their disapproval of lack of Mamelodi products in the team known.
It was the supporters’ right to demand that and they have always made their feelings known about the lack of representation of their community in their favourite team. After all, they have to have a reason for association other than just the love for the team. The supporters are spiritual owners of every football club and that is exactly why you have teams owned by their communities in the Barclays Premier League, for instance, where everyone around that city will be rallying behind their club. You seldom find more people in Liverpool supporting Manchester United more than their home club. There are varying reasons for that but one of them is the close-knit relationship that exists between the team and the supporters from that region. The club goes out of its way to attract the supporter by heeding their call, respecting and loving them.
In South Africa, only Bloemfontein Celtic can proudly lay claim to that accomplishment. They are one of the few teams with the family environment. Bloemfontein is one city where any away team feels like they are really playing away. It is one city where you’d be hard pressed to see more colours of teams from outside Free State than the famous Green and White striped shirts of Siwelele. That is because the team’s supporters are made to feel part of the team. There is no distance between themselves and the club they support. The club knows and understands the value of the supporters. They know that they are because the supporters are. They respect, appreciate and engage them on any major decisions and are always willing to listen to them, whether they agree or not. Supporters should never be treated as if they mean nothing to the clubs like they are done a favour by being allowed to support their teams. Because of good relationships, the supporters hurt when the team is not doing well because, again, they are part of the team. They can’t be fair-weather supporters because whatever happens to their club happens to them. They won’t distance themselves from the club when the club is going through a rough patch. They’d rather work hand-in-hand with management in search of solutions. That is what supporting a team is all about. It is this kind of association that brings the team closer together and that level of respect shown to the supporters is the glue that will always keep the supporters and their club together.
Back to Sundowns, until recently, Koketso Mmotong was the last player born in Mamelodi to have represented Sundowns. They then, two seasons ago, signed Lucky Mohomi from Free State Stars. It is an open secret that ‘Fabregas’, as Mohomi is lovingly addressed in football circles, hasn’t been able to hold down a regular spot in coach Pitso Mosimane’s team. Although he’s been representing the masses, his lack of regular game-time put a dent on the whole process. It was for this reason that the club went for Kaizer Chiefs supporters’ darling, George Lebese and Ea Lla Koto’s enterprising attacker, Thokozani Sekotlong, to add to their growing list of ‘home-grown’ talent that will go a long way in appeasing the club’s supporters. This is a clear message from the team’s management that they value their supporters’ views. Now there’s no reason for the Champions League title holders to continue playing in front of relatively empty stadiums. This is a team coached by the best on the continent in coach Pitso Mosimane and should, therefore, be shown more appreciation. Sundowns supporters, your cries have been heard and it is now time to play your part and rally behind your team. There’s no longer an excuse for lack of representation of your community in the team. These two signing will go a long way in reviving the club’s relationship with the community of Mamelodi.
This is exactly why Everton went for Wayne Rooney from Manchester United because they know the respect and admiration the club’s supporters have for him. Rooney cut his professional football teeth at The Toffees after being promoted from their junior ranks. Although he was born in Liverpool, he has always remained a hero to the Blues’ fans. It made complete sense for them to bring him back and the results are there for everyone to see.
It is on this basis that the astute Cape Town City Football Club chairman and owner, John Comitis, brought Benni McCarthy back to the Mother City and entrusted him with the responsibility of leading his enterprising team. McCarthy is adored by all and sundry and Comitis’ decision to bring him on board has been nothing short of success so far. Because of his connection with the Mother City, McCarthy has managed to draw so many people to this new team and they have widened the gap between themselves and ‘arch-rivals’ Ajax Cape Town because the supporters have been given more reason to associate with the team. Ayanda Patosi is another crowd-puller who is expected to draw thousands of supporters from Khayelitsha and the black community. You have the evergreen Robyn Johannes and Lyle Lakay back in town, while the team continues to recruit local talent. That’s what the supporters want and demand to see, their local heroes representing their communities in their teams.
This is what happens when the team listens to and understand the dynamics of our football. It is what happens when the teams bridge the gap between themselves and their supporters.