When the news of Bloemfontein Celtic Football Club having been sold came through, with relocation and renaming on the cards, it was the lowest blow to the South African football fraternity in recent years.
It is essentially a punch below the belt, that goes unpunished, to the football-loving audience! The Free State and football community at large don’t deserve this! The history and legacy of Siwelele can’t just be swept away or flushed down the drain like that. What happened to Bidvest Wits, a team whose legacy has become a distant memory, should never happen again – at least not to Celtic! This has gone on for far too long and enough is enough! One shudders to think what will become of Bloemfontein without the Green and White? Now the whole province of Free State will be without a team in the premier division – unbelievable!
What is most heartbreaking is the fact that chairman Max Tshabalala’s financial woes have been well-documented, so it was nothing new that the club was experiencing financial difficulties. There had been a number of times where the exchanging of hands of the club’s status was said to be on the cards, but nothing really came out of it. Mamosina Leshabane and Moeketsi Mosola tried to save the situation for Siwelele but, for some reasons, their bid was unsuccessful. Recently, Lebogang Mokoena looked set to become the new Celtic owner but, once again, no luck! These two bids made a lot of sense as they were from within the province, meaning the club would only change ownership without being lost to Free State. Now that’s all in the past as the club has already started with the relocation process! A really, really sad day for South African football! Ntate Petrus Molemela must be turning in his grave! Pule Malebo and thousands of other late passionate Celtic supporters must also be turning in their graves following this development because to them, Celtic was more than just a football club. It was their lifestyle! What is to become of Bloemfontein? What do we tell the passionate and vociferous Celtic supporters? What will keep them going without their club? Bloemfontein is the only town where, regardless of who is playing, the home team receives the most support. Bring the Big Three to Bloem, they will know and feel that they’re playing away from home because they will be outnumbered as the whole town will be clad in Green and White! Such is the passion and love these people have for their team. Those are wonderful scenes we’ve become accustomed to over the years and they didn’t only help Celtic but South African football at large. These people have been an epitome of what supporting a football team is all about. After all the years of emotional and financial investment to their club, what are they left with now? What do they do now when the same football they gave their lives to now shows them the middle finger? This is a dagger through the Celtic supporters’ hearts! Surely they feel betrayed!
No one can tell me selling to Royal AM was the last resort for Celtic management. No one can tell me there wasn’t anyone from Free State who was willing to save the day. I can’t imagine what those supporters are going through right now. This should never have been allowed to happen! Surely sanity should have prevailed, at least for the supporters if nothing else at all. This is disastrous and makes a mockery of our football. We continue to encourage our people to support the Beautiful Game, and when they do, we take the same game away from them? Leave them with what? Not even a courtesy to explain the situation and get Celtic supporters involved so that they know what’s going on, before selling. If ever there was transparency in the process of selling, a lot of people would have come forward to keep this club in Bloemfontein. To the president, Max Tshabalala, shame on you, sir! Much as we understand your dire finances, what we will never understand is the way you handled the situation and seemingly couldn’t care less about the supporters, let alone ensuring this team’s legacy is preserved! That is what we will remember you about. The powers that be at the PSL, you’re not going to escape the wrath of our people. Yes, you can control what clubs decide to do with their statuses and finances. If you buy a KFC franchise, you have to stick to their rules and regulations of business, otherwise you’d lose your license. You can’t operate as KFC but use Steers’ sauces. You have to comply with everything KFC stands for and the same principle should apply to the League. As the custodians of the League, you have to make sure that there are no loopholes in your operations and that people can’t sell and buy as they please.
The way club statuses have exchanged hands in recent years is both alarming and embarrassing. You should take full responsibility and blame as well for this Mickey Mouse operation because the buck stops with you. Football isn’t just about finances. There’s a social element to be taken into consideration as well. When players and staff are told their club has been sold and they have to pack and relocate on the same day, what level of professionalism is that? What about their families? This needs to stop and we just can’t carry on like this! What message are you sending to Celtic players and staff when you allow this kind of treatment to happen? Why would Celtic supporters not feel betrayed by our League? Let’s show some respect to our players and supporters, please! They deserve much better and it is really disappointing to see this cruel side of football! We don’t want to see it happening again. Here’s to hoping that the League will tighten their policies on the sale of clubs to protect the supporters and teams’ legacy. My heart bleeds for the passionate Siwelele supporters because they’ve been the best. We all know how much this team means to them and they must be feeling betrayed, rightfully so. Enough is enough!